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Football | Champions League

Anderlecht aim to break Italy duck

Anderlecht, returning to the Champions League group stage after a six-year absence, have never won in Italy but could end that run when they visit a Milan side in disarray on Tuesday.

The Belgian champions, once a major force in European football, have managed five draws and nine defeats in 14 trips to Italy dating back to 1964, and are unlikely to have a better chance to break their duck than when they face Massimiliano Allegri's beleaguered side.

Having overseen a mass exodus of top players during the summer, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Antonio Cassano and Thiago Silva, Milan have lost their first two Serie A home matches without scoring against unfancied Sampdoria and Atalanta.

Italian media said it was the first time since 1930 that the seven-times European champions have started with two successive home defeats and their recent Champions League record does not inspire confidence either.

Despite reaching the last 16 two seasons ago and the quarter-finals last term, Milan have won only five matches in 24 outings over the last three seasons.

"At the moment we're doing good things for certain stretches of the games but then we look as if we're nervous to go and score," said coach Massimiliano Allegri after Saturday's 1-0 loss to Atalanta.

"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 pitch but the team has all the right ingredients to get better.

"Of course, I've thought about changing the formation but the most important thing is to be convinced about your own abilities because during the match we do some great things but then when we drop the levels a bit, at the moment we really pay for it."

Twice European Cup semi-finalists, four-times quarter-finalists, twice Cup Winners Cup champions and UEFA Cup winners once, Anderlecht used to be a major power in European football.

But, like many big clubs from smaller countries, they have been unable to match the financial clout of their counterparts from the five big leagues and have almost became a feeder club for Spain, England, Italy, France and Germany.

One of the most impressive exports was Romelu Lukaku, who finished as top scorer in the Belgian championship at the age of 16, yet barely got a game for Chelsea after moving there last season.

The 31-times Belgian champions last competed in the Champions League in 2006-07 and have not progressed to the knockout stage since 2000-01.

Having seen off Lithuania's Ekranas 11-0 on aggregate in the third qualifying round, they needed two late goals to dispose of Cypriot champions AEL Limassol in the playoff stage.

AC Milan: 32-Christian Abbiati; 20-Ignazio Abate, 25-Daniele Bonera, 13-Francesco Acerbi, 77-Luca Antonini; 34-Nigel De Jong, 23-Massimo Ambrosini, 28-Urby Emanuelson; 10-Kevin-Prince Boateng; 11-Giampaolo Pazzini, 92-Stephan El Shaarawy

Anderlecht: 1-Silvio Proto; 8-Denis Odoi, 27-Marcin Wasilewski, 3-Olivier Deschacht, 20-Behrang Safari; 30-Guillaume Gilet, 5-Lucas Biglia, 10-Kanu, 17-Olexandr Yakovenko; 25-Dieudonne Mbokani, 21-Tom De Sutter.


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