AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to add the UEFA Super Cup to an impressive CV.
By Paolo Menicucci
Carlo Ancelotti is hoping his AC Milan side will become only the second team in recent years to win both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup.
The UEFA Cup is often referred to as the 'little brother' of the European club competitions, the Champions League being cast as the bullying elder sibling. However, when the two tournament winners have come together in recent editions of the Super Cup, the UEFA Cup holders have often prevailed.
Time for a change
Although Real Madrid CF beat Feyenoord last season, before that Liverpool FC, Galatasaray SK, S.S. Lazio and Chelsea FC (winners of the last UEFA Cup Winners' Cup) all upset the odds - defeating FC Bayern München, Madrid, Manchester United FC and Madrid respectively. Ancelotti is desperate to change this pattern and see his team improve on some indifferent pre-season performances with a win against FC Porto in Monaco on Friday.
Ancelotti admits his players haven't been at their best this summer, mainly due to the heavy physical training they have been doing, and that they face a tough test against José Mourinho's side. "We have been working really hard physically so we are not in brilliant condition yet," Ancelotti told uefa.com. "Porto will also have a slight advantage because their domestic league starts earlier than ours and playing competitive matches helps you reach a better physical condition."
Praise for Porto
Ancelotti, now in his third season at Milan, added that he has the utmost respect for the Portuguese champions. "It will be a difficult match. Porto showed last season that they are an excellent team. They are fast and they are playing great football."
Milan have so far been unable to reproduce the form that conquered Europe last season - a brand of football often reminiscent of the Dutch-influenced Milan team of the 1980s.
They lost the Italian Super Cup to Juventus FC on penalties and have found it difficult to score goals. But Ancelotti is not too worried. He has lost none of the players that led the team to Champions League glory - and has added FIFA World Cup winner Cafu, young Brazilian midfielder Kakà and Lazio full-back Giuseppe Pancaro to the mix.
Same old Milan
Ancelotti said: "The new signings won't change the thinking and playing system of the team but will be valuable additions. Cafu can contribute a lot in attack while Kakà is young and talented. He won't be able to play against Porto, but we will be sure to add him to our Champions League squad. This season will be different compared to last year because there will be fewer matches in the Champions League and fewer opportunities to recover from mistakes."
None the less, the former Parma AC and Juventus coach can see the usual suspects challenging for the title again. "Italian, Spanish and English teams will be favourites as always and I think that Bayern will come back strongly after failing to reach the second group stage last season," he said.
Milan, of course, will hope to be there when the 2003/04 Champions League final is played at the Arena AufSchalke - although at the moment they are fully focused on bucking the trend of under-achieving European champions in the Super Cup.