Having lifted the famous trophy seven times and only sitting behind Real Madrid for most wins in the competition, it’s almost unthinkable that AC Milan haven’t played in the Champions League in the last seven seasons.
A humiliating slump for the Italian giants barely saw them challenging in Serie A and a Europa League last 16 tie against Manchester United last season has probably been the high point in Europe over the last few years.
However, a second place finish in the league last season sees the Rossoneri back in Europe’s premier competition and their return almost fittingly sees handed something of a classic fixture.
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The Devil head to Anfield to face Liverpool, bringing back memories of two classic finals from 2005 and 2007.
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Although the current Milan side are not quite at the level to think about lifting the trophy this year, Eurosport Italy’s Carlofilippo Vardelli believes there are many reasons to be optimistic for the sleeping giant.
It's been a long time since Milan have played in the Champions League. How excited are they to be back and what is a realistic expectation in the competition this season?
AC Milan, among the Italian teams, is the one that has the greatest relationship with the Champions League. The Rossoneri are back home, and the enthusiasm is skyrocketing - also because the last time they won the Champions League is now a faded memory (2007. Kaka was still there...).
Regarding expectations I would be cautious. But considering how the Rossoneri play, perhaps I could see them qualify from the group in second place which would be a surprise.
Milan face Liverpool on their long-awaited Champions League return this week. What is the view of Jurgen Klopp's team from a Milan point of view?
Jurgen Klopp's team is one of the European superpowers. In addition to playing at an insane speed, they have guys with scary technical ability. Last year they suffered with many injuries, but this year they are back to their best.
The opinion of them in Italy is very high, because the former Borussia Dortmund coach managed to start from the bottom to get to the top thanks to patience and ideas, in addition to having good players. He is one of the best coaches in the world and Liverpool are certainly one of the favourites to win the tournament.
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Is there a chance the team could pull off a surprise?
Why not? It will be a match of pressing and gegenpressing, and whoever does it best will be able to win. I'm not good with predictions, but the Rossoneri will certainly play a great game.
This fixture has a significant history in the competition, will that have any impact on how the approach to the game?
I do not believe so. Logically, in everyone's mind, Milan-Liverpool means the two finals between 2005 and 2007, but many years have passed since those days. Both clubs will be respectful of what history has told us, but there will be no impact of those results on the pitch this week. When Jerzy Dudek hypnotised Andriy Shevchenko, Sandro Tonali was only five years old!
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Although he will miss the game with injury, how important is Zlatan Ibrahimovic to this team?
On a mental and technical level he offers a lot, but in a match I don't know.
Against Lazio on Sunday afternoon, he converted one easy chance into the net and strolled around the pitch. He is not at the top of the game anymore, this is clear, but Milan moved really well without him.
I'm not saying that Ibrahimovic is no longer needed, but Stefano Pioli's team have become a more attractive attacking team that the Swede is not as fundamental as he was 18 months ago.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates
Image credit: Getty Images
Aside from Zlatan, there are a number of players with Premier League experience. Who are the team's major threats?
Milan have many weapons. Theo Hernandez, Fikayo Tomori, Olivier Giroud, Sandro Tonali, Franck Kessie, Rafael Leao, Ante Rebic, Brahim Diaz. Pioli's team can hurt opponents through a lot of their players and this is the strength of the Rossoneri. Threats will come from all sides.
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