O'Leary looks to Capello for cheer

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The Independent Online

Fabio Capello's ears must have been burning yesterday as David O'Leary searched for an inspirational example of how his injury-ravaged Leeds United team might spring a seismic surprise on Milan when the Champions' League comes to Elland Road tonight.

Fabio Capello's ears must have been burning yesterday as David O'Leary searched for an inspirational example of how his injury-ravaged Leeds United team might spring a seismic surprise on Milan when the Champions' League comes to Elland Road tonight.

Milan's greatest era, the period around a decade ago when they won the European Cup three times, came with Capello in charge of a squad sprinkled with stellar talents like Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard. So it was "the biggest thrill" of O'Leary's two-year managerial career to get the better of the master coach as Leeds edged Roma out of the Uefa Cup last spring. "Capello is a fantastic man and a great tactician, and I remember thinking: 'I'm going to be standing next to him in the Olympic Stadium'," said O'Leary. "I had nearly a full-strength side and we had a bit of luck, but I was able to walk away feeling I'd picked the right team. When we lost 4-0 in Barcelona last week, we had so many people out that it picked itself."

The situation going into their second Group H fixture, in which the battle of wits will be with Alberto Zaccheroni, is arguably worse. According to the Leeds manager, Lucas Radebe is "nowhere near" fit following his neck injury in the Nou Camp. Nor has Mark Viduka returned from the Olympics, despite Australia's elimination.

Add their names to a casualty list which includes Roma's nemesis, Harry Kewell, plus four other internationals, and it is easy to see why O'Leary is tempted to give Dominic Matteo a deep-end debut against Oliver Bierhoff and Andrei Shevchenko. Matteo survived his first days' training with Leeds yesterday, five weeks after his move from Liverpool, yet, like Eirik Bakke, who has also just vacated the treatment table, he is likely to play a part.

The only good injury news Leeds have heard all summer is that Fernando Redondo, Zaccheroni's £11m buy from Real Madrid, is out. That still leaves an expensive and exotic array of Brazilians, Argentines, Germans and Ukrainians, not forgetting the odd Italian legend like Maldini. However, O'Leary believes that the modern Rossoneri, who, like Leeds, finished third domestically, are not in the class of Capello's side.

"I watched a video of them beating Besiktas 4-1 last week and saw them in a friendly against Roma. Like Barcelona, they're a quality team and they flow forward, and when I went a player came on wearing number 77. I just hope they don't have that many players. But, with the greatest of respect, I don't think they're of the quality they were when Baresi was the defensive general. That was as good as it gets."

O'Leary maintained that he never expected to reach the second phase, noting that Arsenal have twice failed. "And they weren't in as hard a group as us," he claimed. "Even with our full side we'd have done well to get through."

Leeds United (4-4-2, probable): Martyn; Kelly, Duberry, Matteo or Mills, Harte; Bowyer, Dacourt, Jones, Bakke; Bridges, Smith.

Milan (3-4-3, probable): Dida; Chamot or Roque Jnr, Costacurta, Maldini; Helveg, Albertini, Giunti, Coco; Leonardo, Bierhoff, Shevchenko.

Referee: G Benkö (Austria).

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