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By ESPN Staff

Kaladze ready to fill Maldini's boots

AC Milan defender Kakha Kaladze is ready to step in after captain Paolo Maldini was ruled out of tonight's clash with Manchester United.

The veteran Italian defender failed a fitness test on the left knee injury he suffered in last week's first-leg encounter against the Red Devils at Old Trafford.

Georgia international Kaladze is now expected to partner Alessandro Nesta in the centre of Milan's defence.

'I have worked very hard in the past couple of days,' said Kaladze. 'I am fit and ready to play if (coach Carlo) Ancelotti needs me. I am ready to face Manchester.'

With the Rossoneri having conceded a 3-2 advantage at Old Trafford, Ancelotti's side have no alternative but to win if they wish to book a ticket for the final against Liverpool in Athens on May 23.

'I think the fact that we lost 3-2 is a blessing in disguise,' said Kaladze. 'We know that we have one aim and that is to win, full stop.'

The Georgian defender, who was a member of Milan's Champions League winning side in 2003, is confident his team can oust Manchester United.

'No-one thought that we would have arrived at this point of the competition,' he said. 'Yet here we are, and we intend to go to Athens. We know that we will have to take command of the game, to hand a great performance.

'I think Manchester will defend and hit us with fast counter-attacks, which is their strength, and that is why we will have to be very focused from start to finish.'

Kaladze believes that Milan, who are playing in their fourth Champions League semi-final in the last five seasons, have nothing to envy about Manchester United.

'I believe Milan are the strong club in Europe, not Manchester,' said Kaladze. 'We have all the motivation we need, we know that a win against Manchester will see us through to the final and that's all the motivation we need.'