Celtic must take advantage of Milan's sloppy San Siro form

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The Independent Online

Celtic's away record in the Champions' League over previous seasons will not fill their supporters with confidence ahead of tonight's encounter with Milan but the home form of their Italian opponents this term should give them a glimmer of hope.

Celtic's away record in the Champions' League over previous seasons will not fill their supporters with confidence ahead of tonight's encounter with Milan but the home form of their Italian opponents this term should give them a glimmer of hope.

While Martin O'Neill's side have yet to win a single point in six away attempts in the competition, Milan have gained only a draw in their two home Serie A fixtures. Lowly Livorno held Milan 2-2 at San Siro on the opening day of the season and newly-promoted Messina beat Carlo Ancelotti's side 2-1 last week to show that all is not rosy in the Rossoneri garden.

O'Neill's side go into tonight's Group F match desperate for at least a point following their 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in their first match. "We knew how difficult the group was going to be at the beginning with two very fine club sides," O'Neill said yesterday. "If we are going to qualify then we have to knock out one or the other which is a hell of task.

"So it's a simple equation - we have to try and get something out of the game to stay in the competition."

Celtic's hopes will be improved by the return to fitness of their striker Chris Sutton, who has been troubled by a hamstring injury which forced him to miss the 3-0 victory over Dunfermline at the weekend. However, he has trained this week and may earn a starting place.

Paul Lambert, the Celtic captain, admits the San Siro is an awe-inspiring stadium, but the midfielder believes his side are capable of following the example of Livorno and Messina and getting a surprise result. "This is what you play football for, playing in the best stadiums and you're coming up against the best players in the world," Lambert said. "Hopefully, we'll not be intimidated by it but will thrive on it. I don't think you can sit back and hopefully we can cause one or two problems.

"We're not going to let them pass the ball about, we'll try and play our own game and try and get something. We'll get a chance, you always get chances in football and hopefully we can take them on the night."

Lambert recognised the return of Sutton would be beneficial for Celtic but refused to overplay his significance. "Hopefully everything goes all right for Chris at training and he's OK. It's going to be a tough game and you need your best players fit and he's certainly one of them. But it's unfair on the other guys to say we'll have a better chance with Chris fit. We need everybody."

Especially Neil Lennon according to the views of Ancelotti who singled out the midfielder as Celtic's main threat because he reminds the Milan coach of himself. "They have quite a lot of good players and [Henri] Camara is something new in Europe," he said. "They have some good forwards in [John] Hartson and Sutton and they also have Juninho who is a good player but the one I prefer is probably Lennon.

"I like that type of player. He is defensive and committed and reminds me of me."

Also a concern for the Milan coach is the absence of the former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam, who has an ankle injury. "Scottish teams are very physical," he said. "He would have been the right defender for this game versus the Scottish forwards."

Ancelotti, whose side beat Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 in their first Champions' League game, is not only a big fan of Lennon but also of everything Scottish. He revealed that he had family in Penicuik, close to Edinburgh, but had not consulted them on how to beat O'Neill's men.

"I have much experience of Scottish teams," Ancelotti said. "There was a match between Roma and Dundee United but I was injured and couldn't play at that time. I have also played against Scotland. I like the environment there and Scotland has a positive attitude to football. The country is actually close to me because I have relatives there. I also have a strong feeling to saving my money.

"They are from my wife's side but I haven't spoken to them about the game because they don't know much about football."

Ancelotti must decide who to play in attack alongside the Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko, who scored twice in Rome against Lazio at the weekend. He has an embarrassment of riches with Filippo Inzaghi, Chelsea's on-loan striker Hernan Crespo and Jon Dahl Tomasson all available.

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