(Sporting Alert) — AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri confirmed that Mario Balotelli will start, while Kaka is also looking forward to feature against Celtic in their UEFA Champions League Group H at Celtic Park Tuesday night.
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“Balotelli will start tomorrow evening and we expect a lot from him,” confirmed Allegri on AC Milan’s official website (www.acmilan.com).
“I have a great relationship with him. He was an important player in the second half of last season and he is now as well.”
Kaka, who scored at the weekend in the Serie A, and will also start for start for Milan Tuesday night, reveals his friendship with Balotelli and added just how important the Italian forward is to the team, despite his struggles to score in recent times.
“I’m close to Balotelli,” Kaka revealed. “He’s one of the players that I get along with and he’s fun to be around.
“I think that for any striker, not scoring is difficult. Most of his problems will disappear when he gets back scoring. As far as his personal problems go, he’s the one who has to decide what to do there.”
AC Milan defeated Celtic 2-0 when these teams met first in the group at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza Stadium last month with the last goals, but Allegri is bracing for another tough encounter at Celtic Park.
“This is an important match, even if a win may not be enough for us to qualify,” the Milan boss said. “Celtic are strong and they play aggressively so we’ll have to be good technically and tactically.
“It’ll be very difficult. Celtic have only lost two of their last 11 games at home in the Champions League. But even a loss could take us through depending on the result of the other match.”
AC Milan will be without Sulley Muntari (thigh), who scored when they met last, as well as Giampaolo Pazzini (knee), Stephan El Sharaawy (foot), Marco Amelia (knee), Cristian Zaccardo (ankle) and Mattia De Sciglio (knee).
Meanwhile, in team news for the home side, winger James Forrest has been passed fit to play after recovering from a hamstring injury, which kept him out of duties for Scotland.
Forward Anthony Stokes could also return after he missed Saturday’s game due to family reason, but midfielders Scott Brown and Nir Biton are suspended and Adam Matthews (shoulder) and Steven Mouyokolo (Achilles) remain the long-term absentees.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon believes his team is up against a very strong Milan side, despite their place domestically and injury problems with several key players.
“We’re playing against a very good side despite what the recent league form has been showing,” Lennon noted on www.uefa.com. “I watched them on Saturday, they dominated against Genoa, they were unfortunate not to win the game, they played at a very high-calibre tempo.
“Milan were excellent in some passages of the game.”
Lennon also outlined exactly what his team must do in this Champions League fixture Tuesday night.
“It is the game you have to win to have any chance of qualifying,” he warned. “It’s a great game for the players to be involved in.
“We’ve performed very well in the group, apart from the first half in Amsterdam, so I want that to continue tomorrow. There’s a lot of motivation and incentive in that game.”
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• The clubs traded home wins when they met in the 2007/08 group stage. Scott McDonald’s 89th-minute winner earned Celtic a 2-1 home success following goals by Stephen McManus (61) and Kaká (68), but Carlo Ancelotti’s men avenged that defeat with a 1-0 victory at San Siro in their final group fixture, Filippo Inzaghi scoring (70). Gordon Strachan’s Celtic still joined Milan in the last 16 as group runners-up.