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April 17, 2006

Barcelona want to beat Milan

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Barcelona FC is ready to face AC Milan, even though they have two main players down for the game. The team warmed up for Tuesday's encounter by moving a step closer to retaining their Primera Liga title with a 1-0 win over Villarreal on Friday, leading striker Samuel Eto'o scoring his 24th goal.

Ronaldinho Gaucho was rested for a second league match in a row, but coach Frank Rijkaard was left with two new injury worries up front after Henrik Larsson hobbled off with a thigh strain and his replacement Santi Ezquerro followed him down the tunnel with a bruised knee.

Barcelona are already certain to be without their dynamic Argentine teenager Lionel Messi who has failed to recover in time from a torn thigh muscle and will now miss both legs of the semi-final.

We must remember that Deco is suspended after picking up a booking in the 2-0 victory over Benfica in the last round.

That means experienced Dutch international Mark van Bommel, fit-again Brazilian Thiago Motta, talented youngster Andres Iniesta and Brazil's Edmilson will compete for the three spots in midfield.

In the good part of the news, centre-back Rafael Marquez returned to the squad for the Villarreal match following a thigh injury, but he did not play and Rijkaard said he will wait to see how the Mexican responds in training before deciding if he will start against Milan.

Since the 4-0 loss to Milan, Barcelona have reached two Champions League semi-finals, losing to Valencia in 2000 and eventual champions Real Madrid in 2002.

It's important to mention that AC Milan lost their first European Cup semi-final against Real Madrid in 1955-56, the inaugural season, but have not lost at this stage since, reaching 10 finals, including two in the last three seasons.

Starting line-ups:

AC Milan: Dida; Cafu, Alessandro Nesta, Kakha Kaladze, Paolo Maldini; Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Clarence Seedorf; Kaka; Andriy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi

Barcelona: Victor Valdes; Juliano Belletti or Oleguer, Carles Puyol, Rafael Marquez, Giovanni van Bronckhorst or Silvinho; Mark van Bommel, Edmilson, Andres Iniesta or Thiago Motta; Ludovic Giuly, Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o