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AEK’s chance for an upset

Having scored its first win ever in a Champions League match at the last group game over Lille OSC (1-0 in Athens), AEK could do with another win tonight (9.45 p.m.) as it hosts Italian powerhouse AC Milan at the Olympic Stadium. The Italians will advance to the second round of the Champions League if they can secure a point in this Group H match, while AEK would boost its chances of reaching the last 16 if it can manage a surprise. Milan, which has never lost on Greek soil, leads the group with 10 points, followed by Lille with five, AEK with four and Anderlecht with two. «Our side is getting stronger by the day and it is certainly ready to face Milan,» AEK coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer said. Milan comfortably won the first encounter against AEK 3-0 at the San Siro in the first round of group games, back in September. «We know that Milan is a very powerful side but in football you can’t write off a game before it even starts,» Serra Ferrer said. Asked yesterday about the tactics for this game, the AEK manager responded: «Our playing philosophy will not change. We just have to show more caution in defense and have high concentration.» In-form Greek international striker Nikos Liberopoulos scored the lone goal against Lille three weeks ago and also struck twice in last Saturday’s 4-1 win over Kerkyra for the Super League, where AEK holds third spot, three points behind leader Olympiakos. Milan, on the other hand, drew 0-0 at Empoli on Saturday and remains 15th in the Serie A with an eight-point penalty for its role in the Italian match-fixing scandal. «It’s not a fortunate period for us,» captain Paolo Maldini admitted. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has found refuge in the team’s good performances in the Champions League so far: «In Europe Milan remains first. We want to qualify as top of the group so as to remain calm. But things in Athens will not be easy, since AEK has improved considerably from our first match.» Ancelotti added that the goal-less draw at Empoli will serve as a lead on what to avoid against AEK. «I am sure our bad luck will end at some point. I believe in the value of the players and the spirit of the team,» he said. Milan will play tonight without injured defender Alessandro Nesta or midfielder Gennaro Gattuso. AEK will be missing injured midfielder Panagiotis Lagos and defender Nikos Georgeas. «Milan has world-class players, but if we remain calm and focused we can take something positive from the match,» Greece defender Traianos Dellas stated. In the group’s other game, Lille is hosting Anderlecht, with AEK hoping for a draw. (AP, Kathimerini)