Bayern Munich will once again place their trust in the man behind their greatest triumph of recent times when they venture into San Siro tonight. The Bavarian side face Milan needing a win to revive their fading chances of repeating their Champions' League success of two seasons' ago.
Oliver Kahn was their inspiration that year. His superlative displays in goal often proved the difference against supposedly superior opposition. But it was his three saves in the penalty shoot-out in the final against Valencia that secured Bayern the trophy.
Tonight's game will be equally demanding against a Milan side in fine form but Kahn is bursting with confidence. "I am ready for this challenge," he said. "We are going to Milan in order to win. And I am convinced that we can win."
Kahn has the backing of his international coach, Rudi Völler, who believes tonight is made for the goalkeeper. "The night in Milan is coming for Kahn at exactly the right time," he said. "It is again time for an heroic performance."
Bayern will certainly need their goalkeeper to be on top form. After home defeats to Milan – who have won all three of their games – and Deportivo La Coruña, they have one point from three matches. Bayern need a win while defeat and a Deportivo win over Lens would leave the team fighting for third spot and a Uefa Cup place.
However, Bayern's coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, is still confident. "I'm happy we're getting started and that we can show everyone that we still belong to Europe's élite," he said.
Hitzfeld's main problem this season has been the right hand side but Hasan Salihamidzic and Willy Sagnol came through training unscathed yesterday. However, the England international Owen Hargreaves is out with a thigh strain.
Mehmet Scholl is in the party, although Hitzfeld said he had not yet decided whether the long-term injury victim would start. "There would still be a small risk, as he's only made two brief appearances. I'm still thinking over how we'll play," said the coach.
Milan, meanwhile, need victory to secure their place in the second group phase and will be more than happy to see Bayern eliminated along the way.
"We have to win in order to qualify and take Bayern Munich out of the competition," Carlo Ancelotti, the Milan coach, said yesterday, "as they could be dangerous in later rounds. I fear them, they are top of the Bundesliga, five points clear of their closest rivals and have a very strong squad," Ancelotti continued.
While Bayern lead the Bundesliga, Milan are top of Serie A, clear of rivals Internazionale. They also go into the game on the back of an emphatic 4-1 win at Atalanta on Sunday.
Milan will be without Rivaldo as he has returned to Brazil for personal reasons. However, the Ukraine striker Andrei Shevchenko is set to win a place on the bench after recovering from knee surgery which has kept him out for two months.
Rivaldo's absence could mean a rare chance for Jon Dahl Tomasson. The Danish international has failed to settle in Milan following his move from Feyenoord but is likely to line-up alongside the in-form Filippo Inzaghi, Italy's record goalscorer in Europe. Massimo Ambrosini is also expected to return at the expense of either Gennaro Gattuso or Clarence Seedorf.
Meanwhile, Klaus Toppmöller, the Bayer Leverkusen coach, says his team will not be sidetracked by tight security measures surrounding their Group F match against Maccabi Haifa tonight.
"We have to concentrate on football," Toppmöller said before the match, the first on German soil involving an Israeli team in an European club competition. "We need three points. Then a win at home to Olympiakos next Tuesday would see us through."
Last season's Champions' League runners-up made a calamitous start and are one of three teams in the group on three points – six behind leaders Manchester United.
Toppmöller will have to do without Dimitar Berbatov – the Bulgarian striker has an ankle sprain – and the defender Jens Nowotny, who has a knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup. However, the midfielder Bernd Schneider, who missed the club's weekend game, should return.