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Time for Milan to step up: Maldini
April 02, 2007 21:19 IST
AC Milan need to produce a performance worthy of their glorious past when they host Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday.
Of the teams left in the competition, the six-times European champions arguably know best what it takes to go the distance. Only once in the past four seasons has the club failed to reach the last four.
The last time Bayern visited the San Siro stadium, in the first knock-out round of last season's competition, it was simply no contest, as Milan put four goals past the German side to seal a 5-2 win on aggregate.
This season, however, Carlo Ancelotti's team has shown signs of frailty, not just in Serie A, where they languish in sixth place, 35 points behind leaders Inter, but also in Europe, where they needed a brilliant extra-time goal by Brazilian playmaker Kaka to beat last 16 opponents Celtic.
Their captain, Paolo Maldini, admitted his side would have to raise their game if they wanted to progress.
"There are two faces to Milan's season. We're out of the championship, but remain strong contenders in the Champions League," said the 38-year-old defender, who is expected to start the game having shaken off a knee injury.
"This is the moment we have to show our best. We have to lift our game to a higher level than we've done so far."
Ancelotti warned his players they could not afford to throw men forward in attack, leaving themselves exposed at the back.
"They are a very compact team, and they know how to come forward on the break," he said.
"90 percent of their moves are aimed at (Roy) Makaay. He's a great finisher. If he gets through, he can hurt you."
Bayern have lost all four previous European clashes away to Milan and will be without experienced goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and midfield inspiration Mark van Bommel because of suspension as they try to improve on that dismal record.
Morale is nevertheless high after a convincing 2-0 win over Schalke 04 in the league on Saturday when Makaay scored his 100th goal for the club and Hasan Salihamidzic added the second.
"We deserved the win for all the chances we made and the result will give us more self-confidence going into the next game," coach Ottmar Hitzfeld told reporters.
Kahn was banned for one match after losing his temper in a doping control after the victory over Real Madrid in the last round and Bayern's chances could rest on how well the nerves of his 22-year-old understudy Michael Rensing hold up.
Rensing has one other Champions League appearance to his name and that was also against Milan in the 1-1 draw at the Allianz Arena last season.
The loss of Van Bommel, sent off against Real, deprives the team of further experience as they look to avenge last year's defeat but Owen Hargreaves should be able to slot straight into the centre alongside Andreas Ottl.
AC Milan: 1-Dida; 44-Massimo Oddo, 13-Alessandro Nesta, 3-Paolo Maldini, 18-Marek Jankulovski; 8-Gennaro Gattuso, 21-Andrea Pirlo, 23-Massimo Ambrosini, 10-Clarence Seedorf; 22-Kaka; 11-Alberto Gilardino.
Bayern Munich: 22-Michael Rensing; 2-Willy Sagnol, 3-Lucio, 5-Daniel van Buyten, 21-Philipp Lahm; 20-Hasan Salihamidzic, 39-Andreas Ottl, 23-Owen Hargreaves, 31-Bastian Schweinsteiger; 10-Roy Makaay, 11-Lukas Podolski.
Referee: Yuri Baskakov (Russia) (Additional reporting by Kevin Fylan, Berlin)
UEFA Champions League 2006-07: The Complete Coverage