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AC Milan opens European defense against Freddy-less Benfica
by Paul Kennedy, September 18th, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  european championship


AC Milan begins the defense of its UEFA Champions League title at home on Tuesday against Portuguese club Benfica.

American Freddy Adu isn't in the Benfica traveling party to San Siro, where Milan will look to regain its form after a lackluster start to the 2007-08 season (one win and two ties in Serie A).

Milan should be close to full strength for the game. Ronaldo remains sidelined with a thigh injury, while midfield ace Andrea Pirlo is questionable with a calf injury.

Benfica suffered a blow over the weekend when veteran midfielder Armando Petit went down with a knee injury that will keep him out of action for six weeks. Also out are defenders Luisao (knee), Andre Luiz (foot), and Marc Zoro (thigh).

The game marks the return of 34-year-old Rui Costa to San Siro, where he played for six seasons before signing with Benfica in 2006. The veteran playmaker was instrumental in Benfica's qualification for the group stage of the 2007-08 competition.

"He's a player who despite his age still manages to play at this level," said an admiring Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti. "I have a lot of respect for him and his professionalism proven by his great performances with Benfica.''

AC Milan -- Dida; Massimo Oddo, Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze, Marek Jankulovski; Massimo Ambrosini, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf; Kaka, Filippo Inzaghi.
Benfica -- Quim; Luis Filipe, Miguel Vitor, Edcarlos, Leo; Konstantinos Katsouranis, Rui Costa, Maxi Pereira, Cristian Rodriguez; Angel Di Maria, Nuno Gomes.
Referee: Mike Riley (England)

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