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Milan lose Dida, gain Maldini for Shakhtar clash

MILAN, Oct 23 (Reuters) Struggling holders AC Milan will be without suspended goalkeeper Dida for tomorrow's Champions League Group D match with Shakhtar Donetsk but captain Paolo Maldini is back.

Brazil's Dida had his two-match ban for feigning injury against Celtic reduced to one yesterday after Milan's appeal was partially upheld but he will have to make way for Zeljko Kalac in the first match of a double header against the Ukrainians.

Maldini, who played in a record-equalling eighth European Cup final in May, made his first start of the season in Sunday's 1-0 home defeat by Empoli following knee surgery.

The return of the inspirational 39-year-old is a rare bright spot for Carlo Ancelotti's men, who have made a wretched start to the season and looked devoid of ideas at the weekend against a superior Empoli.

Four 1-1 draws, a defeat at Palermo and the 2-1 loss at Celtic in their last Champions League game were all forgotten when Milan trounced Lazio 5-1 away but the embarrassing home defeat to the tiny Tuscan side has created a full-blown crisis.

''The problems are there and they are going to be resolved. Talk of a crisis if you want. But it is not chaos at Milan,'' vice president Adriano Galliani told a news conference, adding that Marek Jankulovski was a slight doubt with a knee problem.

The flowing 2-1 win over Benfica in their opening Champions League game last month is Milan's only home win this season and the clash with group leaders Shakhtar looks trickier, especially given the Italian connections.

Cristiano Lucarelli was second top scorer in Serie A last season with 20 goals for Livorno and although his move to Ukraine raised eyebrows, he showed his hunger by scoring both goals in Italy's 2-0 friendly win over South Africa last week.

Shakhtar, backed by Ukraine's richest man Rinat Akhmetov, beat Celtic 2-0 at home in their Group D opener before winning 1-0 at Benfica to suggest that spending over 70 million dollar in the close season could pay dividends.

Mexican striker Nery Castillo, who cost an ex-Soviet state record of 27.4 million dollar, has added depth to a side that lost 1-0 at home and 4-0 away to Milan when they last met in the competition three seasons ago.

Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu, who coached Milan's city rivals Inter for part of the 1998/99 season, has a good chance of guiding Shakhtar into the knockout stages for the first time and in the process could make Milan's season even worse.

Probable teams: Milan: 16-Zeljko Kalac; 44-Massimo Oddo, 13-Alessandro Nesta, 3-Paolo Maldini, 18-Marek Jankulovski; 8-Gennaro Gattuso 10-Clarence Seedorf, 21-Andrea Pirlo, 23-Massimo Ambrosini; 22-Kaka, 9-Filippo Inzaghi.

Shakhtar Donetsk: 30-Andriy Pyatov; 5-Olexander Kucher, 27-Dmytro Chygrynskiy, 26-Razvan Rat, 11-Ilsinho; 33-Darijo Srna, 7-Fernandinho, 8-Jadson, 18-Mariusz Lewandowski; 25-Brandao, 99-Cristiano Lucarelli.

Referee: Luis Medina Cantalejo.


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Story first published: Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 13:02 [IST]
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