AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti predicts a glorious end to a season which began in such acrimony when the Rossoneri renew ties with Liverpool FC in Athens.
AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti predicts a glorious end to a season which began in such acrimony when the Rossoneri renew ties with Liverpool FC in next Wednesday's UEFA Champions League final in Athens. "This competition is part of the tradition and philosophy of this club," he said.
Docked eight points for their part in the sporting fraud scandal which struck Italian football last summer, Milan have written another incredible chapter in their history by fighting back to guarantee themselves a top-four finish in Serie A and a crack at a seventh European Champion Clubs' Cup triumph in the Greek capital. "The season began with numerous problems," said Ancelotti. "Everything seemed to be going wrong and when it's like that it's easy to look for scapegoats and for people to blame. But it's more important to solve problems and that's what we've done; things are looking up."
Ancelotti's side have endured mixed fortunes in recent finals, eclipsing Juventus on penalties in Manchester in 2003 before that epic loss on spot-kicks to Liverpool two years ago. Having triumphed over adversity this season, the 47-year-old said simply reaching his third final as a coach, having won two European Cups as a player, is an "incredible achievement", adding: "In 2005 we expected to get to the final. This time around I'm very proud because we've managed to reach our goal again despite all the difficulties. I'm very happy to be in this position.
"There is still pressure because this is as extremely important match seen by million of people around the world and we don't to make fools of ourselves. That pressure is not to win, only to play well. Everyone is desperate to do well in this tournament - both teams want to take the trophy. The Champions League is part of the philosophy and the tradition of this club. It has always been the most important goal and most important tournament for us."
Knee injury permitting, captain Paolo Maldini will appear in his eighth European Cup final in Milan colours, and Ancelotti believes the know-how of the 38-year-old - who is expected to agree a new contract which will see him play on for another season at San Siro - could prove the difference between success and failure next week: "In a match like this experience counts for a lot on the eve of the match. Many of my players are used to games at this level and that means we can approach the game with the right attitude."