Adams fears AC Milan understudies

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The Independent Online

Portsmouth manager Tony Adams fears the hungry understudies to the stars at mighty AC Milan might be the biggest threat to his team's ambition of winning the "most prestigious game this club will ever play" on Thursday might.

Pompey take on the seven-times European champions in Group E of the Uefa Cup's second round phase minus top striker Jermain Defoe and with major fitness doubts over skipper Sol Campbell and midfield aces Lassana Diarra and Niko Kranjcar.

A second defeat after last month's 3-0 crash to Sporting Braga in Portugal would badly damage hopes of qualifying for the next knockout stage.

But the illustrious visitors, having won their first two games in the competition are virtually guaranteed further progress already - and could rest some of their big names.

Brazilian genius Kaka has yet to figure in the Uefa Cup for Milan while his compatriot Ronaldinho has only appeared as a substitute, scoring a last-minute winner against Braga in October, watched by just 10,000 fans at the cavernous San Siro.

So Adams, just a month into his job as successor to Harry Redknapp, has applied a strong measure of reality to what is perceived as a night of ultimate football glamour on the south coast.

He admits: "It's probably the most prestigious game this club will ever play in. What we did last season, winning the FA Cup was amazing and this occasion is the reward for that.

"But I'm saying that although it is great to be playing AC Milan the most important games for us as a club are in the Premier League.

"We are all about building foundations. This is our first season in Europe and I would like to think that in five years time we'll get the AC Milans here every year but the only way you can do that is by staying in the Premier League.

"How are Milan going to approach it? I'm not so sure you won't see a few of their squad players come over and play.

"Ronaldinho and Kaka? I'm not sure they are going to come but sometimes you can get a great reaction from what might be seen as an under-strength team.

"A few of their kids are pretty good any way. Maybe (Philippe) Senderos (on loan from Arsenal) might get a game, (Andriy) Shevchenko (from Chelsea) might play.

"Knowing the Italians, I can see them just locking it up, just come for a nil-nil, but if we can get a goal we might well turn them over.

"Whatever, it will be a great night for the fans. We're going to give them a game, throw everything at them.

"And there are a few players at this club I need to give games - give them the chance to fight for contracts.

"It's a reward for what they did last year and an opportunity to be part of the club's future. This game and the one in Wolfsburg could be ideal for that but I'm not taking the competition lightly, don't get me wrong.

"I just think it might be a night for the supporters. And to beat AC Milan at Fratton Park would be fantastic as a coach and I really think it will be possible with the team I am going to put out.

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