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Milan teams tread new ground
March 29, 2006 13:16 IST
Milan's football aristocracy comes up against the brave new world of the European game in two Champions League quarter-final first legs on Wednesday.
Spanish newcomers Villarreal visit the San Siro to play Inter Milan for the first time in their history.
Inter have been trying for years to emulate their forebears of the mid-1960s who won the European Cup twice in succession.
Six-times champions AC Milan, the second most successful team in the competition behind Real Madrid, also meet Olympique Lyon for the first time, at the Stade Gerland.
Lyon are looking to reach the semi-finals for the first time and Milan must be wary of a team that advanced to the last eight in 2005 and is even stronger this season, despite losing midfielder Michael Essien to Chelsea.
"I believe we are strong enough to give them a hard time," said Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas.
Milan's Brazilian goalkeeper Dida said: "Lyon are a very dangerous team, getting better in Europe from year to year and we must be very careful.
"Yes, they could win the Champions' Cup but this is the same objective we have at Milan, who are I think the strongest team in Europe," he was quoted as saying on the club's website.
The match at the San Siro could see a near full Argentina side on the field given the number of players from that country in the two squads.
The midfield duel between Juan Sebastian Veron and Villarreal's Juan Roman Riquelme promises to be a highlight in view of their status in Argentina's World Cup plans.
Riquelme embodies the game Argentina want to play in the finals in Germany while Veron, captain of the team that flopped in Japan and South Korea four years ago, is out in the cold despite a plea from Diego Maradona for his inclusion.
"Against Villarreal it will be important to play a good team game. They are a tough team to face, made up of so many good players," said Inter captain Javier Zanetti.
"They play a beautiful game...to do well we'll need the best Inter."
The Italians may need the best of Adriano if the Brazilian plays, which is no certainty given his poor form.
But Zanetti said: "Strikers just need to score one goal to end a bad run."
UEFA Champions League 2005-06: The Complete Coverage