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SerieAWeekly On September - 28 - 2011

Champions League Preview – Milan vs Viktoria Plzeň

Guest Writer Anthony Lopopolo - AC Milan will attempt to re-establish a winning record at home in the Champions League as it hosts newcomer Viktoria Plzen at the San Siro on Wednesday.

A litany of injuries has limited the first-team choices of coach Massimiliano Allegri as of late, with as many as 10 potential starters on the treatment table. Against Plzen, Zlatan Ibrahimovic could make only his third competitive appearance of the year for Milan since injuring his groin in training a few weeks ago. Disturbed by a rash of injuries, Milan started slowly in their Serie A defence, scoring only five times and conceding six goals in four games.
With or without Ibrahimovic, though, Allegri will have to find a way to restore Milan’s winning ways at home. The Rossoneri have lost four of their past eight home games in the Champions League and do not have a winning record at home since their glorious European championship run in 2007.

Although Milan has not played against Plzen before, it has won five of eight games against Czech opposition.

For Plzen, the road across Europe continues to get more foreign by the month. Having just recently won its first Czech title in 100 years of existence in May, Plzen will play its first game on Italian soil. And for a relatively inexperienced side that had lost its only two European encounters by lengthy margins before this year, the Czech side heads into Milan with a bit of confidence. They have won their past three road games in the early qualifying stages of the Champions League and conceded only once in all of those games.

However rare it may seem, a win by Plzen over Milan would deal the Italian side their first three-game losing streak at home in UEFA competition. But Plzen coach Pavel Vrba, who is making his fourth visit to Italy, told that he just wants his team to absorb the experience at the San Siro.

“My first impression of this stadium is a great one. It’s wonderful. Back home we don’t have anything like it,” Horvath said. “We have to prepare, be humble and face it in the best way we can. I hope this chance to play in the Champions League will contribute to the development of Czech football.”

Clarence Seedorf will likely wear the captain’s armband in what has been a busy season for him already, appearing in five of Milan’s six competitive matches thus far. He scored the game-winning goal against Cesena on the weekend and can be regarded as the team’s greatest source of leadership in the absence of captain Massimo Ambrosini, who will likely sit out with a shoulder injury.

The last time he played a home game in the Champions League, Seedorf witnessed his team conceded the winning goal of the Round of 16 tie against Tottenham courtesy the boot of Peter Crouch. But the 35-year-old Dutch told the Agence France-Presse there is no lingering effects from that encounter.

“I’ve already dried my tears. Now we need to earn points to continue what we’ve achieved up until now,” he said. “The draw with Barcelona gave us an important indication as to how we’re progressing.”

Coming off an uninspired and isolated performance against Barcelona in the Champions League, Antonio Cassano will once again anchor the striking duties for Milan and look for his first goal in European competition since 2008.

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