Portsmouth vs AC Milan Preview
I never, ever thought I would be typing up a preview for a game against one of the most decorated foreign teams in the history of football and I'm sure I won't be the only one pinching myself as Pompey walk out at a bouncing Fratton Park alongside Milan for a competetive game.
Ever since the draw for the group stages was made, Pompey fans have been relishing what is arguably the biggest game in the history of this football club. You only have to look at their squad in awe of some of their big-name players, past and present to understand why the Rossoneri are one of the biggest clubs in world football.
Putting the glamour aside, there's a crucial game of football to be won and three valuable UEFA Cup points at stake. Carlo Ancelotti may rest some of his big names seeing as Milan are virtually through to the knockout stages after thrashing Heerenveen and stealing a last-gasp win against Braga at the San Siro.
However, Ancelotti did reveal that Kaka will start against Pompey whilst another former FIFA World Player Of The Year in Ronaldinho will be on the bench should the Italian need to call on him.
The depth of the Milan squad is so huge that they can rest the likes of Ronaldinho and replace them with the likes of Andrea Pirlo or Clarence Seedorf. It also looks like we'll see some familiar faces in Phillipe Senderos, Mathieu Flamini and Andriy Shevchenko in the side after they left England in the summer.
Whatever side Ancelotti picks, it's going to be a hell of a good one and so every single player who walks out of the tunnel wearing a blue shirt tomorrow night must give everything they have.
But who will Tony Adams select? Defoe and Diarra have both been ruled out but thankfully neither need surgery on their respective injuries and should be available in the very near future.
Adams has said he won't risk anyone who isn't 100% fit so it may look like Sol Campbell, John Utaka and Niko Kranjcar may also miss out. That means the likes of Hermann Hreidarsson and Glen Little could be given the ultimate chance to prove themselves worthy of the first team.
Because of Pompey's shortages up front, Tony Adams has hinted that he may play Peter Crouch and Kanu. I really hope he doesn't do that as both players are too similar and if we are to really work Milan and make ourselves hard to break down then perhaps we should revert to the 4-5-1 formation.
If we are to have any chance of beating the team that are currently second in Serie A then every player is going to have to give 100% and close the opposition down almost as soon as they have the ball.
I disagree with the fans who think we haven't got a chance because of our form and injuries as we've beaten better teams than Milan with weaker teams than the one we currently have. Manchester United's defeats at Fratton Park have all been a result of sheer hard work and a couple of lucky breaks so if the players are prepared to show that same sort of work ethic tomorrow then we have a chance.
Milan are also expected to play with a congested centre midfield, so if Nadir Belhadj and Armand Traore are on song then that could be our best way through the experienced Milan defence. Of course, they have so much talent up front that it's going to be difficult to stop the likes of Inzaghi, Pato and Shevchenko from scoring if they play.
Since the last couple of days I've been immensely looking forward to this game. I know I may seem short-sighted but give me a win against Milan over a victory against Blackburn on Sunday any day. It's unlikely that we will play AC Milan in a competitive fixture for years to come, so to beat them will live much longer in the memory than a win over Rovers.
The main thing for us is to simply enjoy the occasion. This match is a reward for all of those long, fruitless trips to the likes of Grimsby and Bury and is a far cry from the dark days of the 70's. A competitive fixture against European giants was a pipedream at the start of this decade so be sure to savour the occasion for all it is worth.
Fratton Park will be bouncing for what will be a historic night in Pompey's long history and who knows? Maybe there will be a glorious result at the end of it which will have Portsmouth fans talking about it for generations to come.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
GK: David JAMES
RB: Glen JOHNSON
CB: Younes KABOUL
CB: Sylvain DISTIN
LB: Hermann HREIDARSSON
RM: Glen LITTLE
CM: Sean DAVIS
CM: Richard HUGHES
CM: Papa BOUBA DIOP
LM: Nadir BELHADJ
CF: Peter CROUCH
GK: Christian ABBIATI
RB: Luca ANTONINI
CB: Phillipe SENDEROS
CB: Allesandro NESTA
LB: Giuseppe FAVALLI
DM: Mathieu FLAMINI
CM: Massimo AMBROSINI
CM: Clarence SEEDORF
CF: Alexandre PATO
CF: Andriy SHEVCHENKO
After all of the bad breaks we have had at Fratton Park I think we could be due a bit of luck. It may be too good to be true but despite all of our problems I honestly think we can beat them.... I hope I don't regret this but....
Pompey 1 AC Milan 0