Ancelotti urges caution for Milan defence

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The Independent Online

Milan go in to tonight's Champions' League tie with Sparta Prague as the firm favourites to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Milan go in to tonight's Champions' League tie with Sparta Prague as the firm favourites to qualify for the quarter-finals.

The Italian side have gone 10 games unbeaten in Serie A and held Sparta to a 0-0 draw in Prague, but their coach Carlo Ancelotti is cautious after his side squandered several easy scoring chances in the first leg.

"I'm not tranquil starting with a 0-0 score," Ancelotti said. "It's a risky result and we will have to be very careful in defence because allowing one goal could hurt us badly."

On Sunday, Milan produced one of their finest performances of the season to beat Sampdoria 3-1 and maintain their five-point lead at the top of Serie A.

Ancelotti is expected to make a few changes for tonight's tie, but added: "If we play like Sunday, I have no doubts over our qualification. But every match has its own history." Ancelotti is expected to start strikers Andriy Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi with the Brazilian Kaka supporting them.

Shevchenko, who is the leading goalscorer in Serie A with 17 goals, replaces the Dane Jon-Dahl Tomasson after being rested on Sunday. Inzaghi, who returned two weeks ago after a long injury absence, was among Sunday's scorers against Sampdoria along with Kaka and midfielder Andrea Pirlo.

"In Prague we missed some easy scoring chances, out of bad luck. We will not do it again on Wednesday," Inzaghi said.

Paolo Maldini has recovered from a bruised right foot and the club's only doubt is the Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf who has a leg injury. He could be replaced by Massimo Ambrosini. Sparta are expected to field a tight defence, with the veteran captain-midfielder Karel Poborsky supporting the lone striker Jiri Stajner.

Monaco, meanwhile, will be playing host to Locomotiv Moscow and looking to overturn their 2-1 deficit from the first leg and ease the club's financial problems.

Coach Didier Deschamps's task at the start of this season was to reach the last 16 of the Champions' League. Now the former France captain is on the verge of guiding the debt-ridden team into the quarter-finals.

Qualifying from the group stages brought £1m into Monaco's coffers. Reaching the quarter-finals would bring a further £1.3m - a boost for a club with reported debts of some £34m. Winning the competition - at best an outside chance - brings around £11m.

"To play that badly and lose only 2-1 is a miracle," the Monaco winger Jerome Rothen said. His precise cross led to Fernando Morientes heading Monaco's crucial away goal. "I want to get my revenge, but to go through we will need to be at our best," Rothen added.

Monaco are at full strength for the tie, but the same cannot be said for the visitors.

Locomotiv will be without their midfielder Dmitry Khokhlov (back injury), the defender Dmitry Sennikov (broken nose), while the strikers Ruslan Pimenov and Maxim Buznikin are also injured.

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