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Crisis-hit Milan battles emerging giant Shakhtar
by Paul Kennedy, October 24th, 2007 7AM



[MARQUEE MATCHUP] Its Serie A season a mess, AC Milan turns it attention to the UEFA Champions League, where it has gotten off to a rocky start in its title defense.

Milan, which split its first two games, faces a must-win situation at home on Wednesday against Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, the surprise Group D leader with wins in its opening games.

Winless at San Siro in four Serie A games, Milan will be without suspended goalkeeper Dida, who was hit with a one-match ban (reduced on appeal) for feigning injury against Celtic and will be replaced by Australian Zeljko Kalac against Shakhtar.

Talk of a Milan crisis escalated after Sunday's 1-0 home loss to tiny Empoli.

"The problems are there and they are going to be resolved," said Milan vice president Adriano Galliani. "Talk of a crisis if you want. But it is not chaos at Milan."

For Milan, left back Marek Jankulovski is out after injuring his knee in the Empoli game, and Brazilian star Kaka is uncertain after returning from World Cup qualifying with a knee injury of his own.

Italian Cristiano Lucarelli, who was the No. 2 scorer in Serie A last season with 20 goals for Livorno, is just one of many foreign stars imported by Shakhtar, financed by Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov.

Shakhtar paid a record $27 million for Mexican star Nery Castillo from Greek club Olympiakos, bu Castillo is expected to be on the bench for the Milan game.

Shakhtar's Romanian coach, Mircea Lucescu, will likely start a lineup that includes four Brazilians, three Ukrainians, one Croatian, one Pole and one Romania, in addition to the Italian Lucarelli.

AC Milan --
Kalac, Oddo, Nesta, Maldini, Favalli, Gattuso Seedorf, Pirlo, Ambrosini, Kaka, Inzaghi.
Shakhtar Donetsk -- Pyatov, Kucher, Chygrynskiy, Rat, Ilsinho, Srna, Fernandinho, Jadson, Lewandowski, Brandao, Lucarelli.
Referee: Luis Medina Cantalejo (Spain).

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