uefa.com gives its mid-term report on UEFA Cup contenders Milan AC.
Milan AC enter midwinter well placed to launch a serious push for domestic and European honours come the new year.
Sat in the upper reaches of Serie A and into the fourth round of the UEFA Cup, the Rossoneri have performed impressively given the potential for upheaval produced by Fatih Terim's dismissal after just four months in charge and the subsequent appointment of Carlo Ancelotti.
A member of the Milan side that lifted the European Champion Clubs' Cup in 1990, Ancelotti was the ideal appointment for Milan's president, Silvio Berlusconi. An advocate of the 4-4-2 system and a man who places the first emphasis on defence, Ancelotti has made Milan more solid.
Terim gone by November
Under Terim, who had earned praise from the Italian press during his spell at AC Fiorentina last term, there was some switching of selections and systems as the Turkish coach looked to find his feet at the club. As it was, he was gone and replaced by Ancelotti come the beginning of November.
Of Milan's two showpiece summer signings, striker Filippo Inzaghi has scored goals with the regularity his reputation (and price tag) would suggest, but Rui Costa - brought from Fiorentina by Terim - has yet to replicate his form for the Viola and Portugal.
Terim left Milan little more than a fortnight after a 4-2 derby success against arch-rivals Internazionale FC, his downfall arguably the results against some of Serie A's weaker sides. A 0-0 draw with AC Venezia was his final home match at the helm - the same result, ironically, Ancelotti secured in a disappointing first match at home against Piacenza FC. There have been no such slip-ups in the UEFA Cup, however, where Milan have won five of their six ties to date, and conceded just a single goal.
Came home with Kutuzov
Milan's UEFA Cup campaign began with a 2-0 win in Belarus against BATE Borisov, Andriy Shevchenko and Javi Moreno the scorers. That was not the only thing they took from the trip - they also came home with the signature of Borisov's 21-year-old striker Vitali Kutuzov. The return match at the San Siro stadium was won with ease, Rui Costa netting his first European goal for the club in a 4-0 win.
Goals from Rui Costa and Shevchenko - the latter a superb diving header - secured a 2-0 first-leg defeat of FC CSKA Sofia in the following round and it was Inzaghi who struck the only goal of the return for a Milan side missing the experienced trio of Paolo Maldini, Shevchenko and Demetrio Albertini.
Milan had the better of Sporting Clube de Portugal in the third round. Shevchenko and Inzaghi were again on target in the first leg at home - the latter's strike 13 minutes from time providing an important cushion for the return. Five days before the second leg in Portugal, however, Inzaghi damaged knee ligaments in a 3-2 Serie A victory over AC Chievo Verona and is expected to be out until well into the new year.
In Lisbon, the Italians faced their toughest test yet in the tournament as Sporting put them under considerable pressure following a Marius Niculae strike early in the second half. However, they stood firm and stole a last-minute equaliser through Javi Moreno.
Next up are Roda JC of Holland. On Milan's showings so far, it would take a brave man to bet against them reaching the quarter-finals and a tie against either Parma AC or Hapoel Tel-Aviv.