If the Liverpool vs Chelsea match was as a number of commentators put it, an advert for stifling and boring soccer and yet a true index of the battling English soul, here comes the real test of soccer supremacy, the English version vs the European one. Silky smooth Kaka vs human dynamo Cristiano Ronaldo.
Paolo Maldini will be out but in his absence Kakhabar Kaladze is likely to start. Kaladze has stepped in before for Maldini and performed admirably. For Man Utd, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic's return will bolster the defense, providing options for Sir Alex to fill in the central defenders, which Heinze was out of depth last week, relocating in this match to his usual left back position.
Pirlo will hold the midfield letting Kaka roam and outrun the opposition with his acceleration or put the ball to lone striker, Fillipo Inzaghi, who can turn things around with his opportunism. The best news for Ancelotti is that Gattuso is match ready. Gattuso's strength is playing from the back and he and Massimo Oddo will have to be very active in cutting off the supply lanes to Rooney, who showed how lightning quick he can be in front of the ball. Ronaldo and Giggs will move outside to stretch the Milan defense rather than go through the center. The Man Utd attack is many headed.
Look for a fast moving match with plenty of attacks and counter attacks as both teams go on the offensive. I think Man Utd starts off red hot to put Milan on the defensive and score that all important first goal. Dida will have to be at his acrobatic best. But Milan should get back in the game and dictate the pace with its superior midfield. Kaka will be the difference. My theory is do all the spadework but also test Van Der Saar with some well struck shots. VDS tends to parry the ball ineffectively at times against piledrivers and both Roma and Portsmouth have scored goals off weak rebounds.
The San Siro will be rocking.
Prediction: AC Milan 2 Manchester United 1 (Milan enters the CL final on the away goal advantage)
AC Milan and Manchester United have met seven times before in European competition, United winning three and AC Milan the other four. Milan have won all three matches played in Italy, all without conceding a goal. The Italians have knocked United out each time they have met in Europe.
AC Milan have hosted English clubs on 11 previous occasions and are yet to lose, winning six and drawing five. Manchester United have visited Italy 12 times, winning just twice and losing nine times.
Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have all knocked AC Milan out of European competition. The last to do so over two legs was Manchester City in the 1978-79 Uefa Cup.