Anderlecht's return to the UEFA Champions League group stage after a six-year absence could not begin with a more difficult trip.
The Belgian champions, featuring American Sacha Kljestan in midfield, have never won in 14 games in Italy dating back to 1964, and they open at AC Milan, a team desperate to get on the winning track after a disastrous start to its domestic campaign. For the first time since 1930, the Rossoneri lost their first two home matches, both by shutouts to Sampdoria and Atalanta.
"At the moment," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri after Saturday's 1-0 loss to Atalanta, "we're doing good things for certain stretches of the games but then we look as if we're nervous to go and score. On Tuesday, the team will definitely do better. I didn't even imagine that we could have lost two home games and this really hurts. We have to be more careful at both ends of the field, but the team has all the right ingredients to get better."
Milan's housecleaning gutted Allegri's team. Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were sold to Paris St. Germain for big money, Antonio Cassano was traded to Inter Milan, and a slew of veterans were allowed to leave.
After losing Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea in 2011, Anderlecht managed to keep a corps of its current team together for its Champions League run. It won the old Cup Winners' Cup once and UEFA Cup twice and reached the quarterfinals of the European Cup four times. But it hasn't advanced to the knockout stage of the Champions League since 2001.