Milan set sights on European mission

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The Italian champions, Milan, find themselves in the unusual position of having to play for Champions' League survival when they take on IFK Gothenburg in a Group D match today.

Half-way through the group stage, Milan have already lost two out of three, to Portugal's Porto and, a fortnight ago, to Gothenburg. They have only three points, the same as the Norwegian side Rosenborg and Gothenburg but six behind Porto. Their problems have not been confined to the Champions' League. In Serie A they have lost three times, most recently 1-0 to Fiorentina on Sunday.

Their Croat midfielder, Zvonimir Boban, has no illusions about the do- or-die nature of Milan's task against Gothenburg. "This is a match of a lifetime for us, we've got to win it in order to stay in the Champions' League," he said yesterday.

The team's Liberian striker George Weah believes the team's current problems are more mental than physical. "Last year we won games 1-0 or held on for a 0-0 draw. This year, if we're in front, our opponents overhaul us and if we're drawing 0-0, like against Fiorentina, then we lose. It's a question of our minds, concentration. We've got to be more attentive and not be caught out," he said.

On the eve of the match, Milan lifted by news that their influential midfielder, Demetrio Albertini, will be fit to play. His return partly compensates for the absence of key injured players like the Montenegrin Dejan Savicevic and their captain, Franco Baresi. Albertini returns to midfield alongside Boban with the Dutchman Edgar Davids on the left and with either Tomas Locatelli or Stefano Eranio on the right.

Milan will use their customary 4-4-2 formation with the attack being led by the Liberian George Weah and Marco Simone, thus once again relegating Roberto Baggio to the subs bench. The Frenchman Marcel Desailly replaces Baresi, dropping back from midfield to partner Alessandro Costacurta in defence.

Gothenburg come into the game on a high having picked up their fourth consecutive Swedish league title last weekend. Further good news for the Swedes came with confirmation this week that their 22-year-old midfielder Jesper Blomqvist had signed a new contract with the club. Blomqvist is one of the emerging talents of Swedish soccer and his name had been linked to a number of European sides.

He will probably be partnered by Niclas Alexandersson, Magnus Erlingmark and Stefan Lindqvist in a four-man midfield. Andreas Andersson, the top scorer in the Swedish league with 19 goals, leads the attack along with the experienced former Ajax striker Stefan Pettersson.