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By ESPN Staff
Feb 19, 2007

Maldini eager to tackle Celtic's home form

AC Milan skipper Paolo Maldini is relishing the challenge of playing at Parkhead despite Celtic's impressive home record in the Champions League.

The Italian giants face the Hoops in Glasgow tomorrow in the first leg of Celtic's first last-16 tie in the tournament.

The Bhoys have lost just one out of 12 Champions League group games - against Barcelona - in front of their fervent support at Celtic Park.

Milan had to settle for a goalless draw in the east end of Glasgow two years ago, but Maldini does not fear playing in front of 60,000 passionate Hoops fans.

Maldini said: 'It's one of the nicest places to play. I played here two years ago and the intensity of the crowd was amazing.'

The 38-year-old also has no qualms about facing Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink if the Dutch striker overcomes a hamstring problem.

The Dutch hitman won and drew against the Rossoneri in the Champions League last season while playing for PSV Eindhoven.

Maldini said: 'He's a player that is very difficult to challenge, especially at high balls.

'He put us under pressure when he used to play at PSV but we think we have the weapons to tackle him.'

Maldini was rested at the weekend as Milan won 4-3 at Siena in Serie A thanks to an injury-time own goal but he dismissed talk of a defensive crisis.

He said: 'Every game is different from another, the Champions League is different. We obviously must improve in defence but if you look at the performances, both in the league and in Europe, they are generally good.'

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti is wary of the threat of Gordon Strachan's side but he insists he will look to win the first leg.

He said: 'Celtic are very difficult to play away, they are very strong and they also have the support from the public.

'It will be an extremely difficult game but we believe we have a good chance of going through.

'I think every team in Europe is having difficulties but Celtic are playing very well. They are a very competitive team.

'We always play to win but it will depend on the performance.'

Ancelotti, who has won Europe's elite prize as a player and manager with Milan, dismissed fears a shortage of strikers will hamper their goal threat.

Alberto Gilardino is struggling with a knee problem while the injured Filippo Inzaghi and the cup-tied Ronaldo are ruled out.

Ancelotti said: 'In football even defenders can score goals. In the past goalkeepers have scored. We are confident we can attempt to score.'

The former Italy midfielder picked out one-time Reggina midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura as Celtic's main threat.

He said: 'One of the best players is Nakamura. He did very well in Italy and he will be very dangerous, especially at free-kicks.'