Domenica, 23 Settembre 2018
ROME

Soccer: AC Milan draw PSV in Champions, Balotelli OK

English
© ANSA

(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, August 9 - AC Milan were unlucky in Friday's
draw for the Champions League playoffs, which pitched the
seven-time European champions against Dutch team PSV Eindhoven.
But the Serie A side also had some good news Friday as
medical tests on Italy forward Mario Balotelli failed to detect
any major injuries, after he took a knock to his right calf in a
friendly against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the United States.
This means Milan should be able to field their best player
in the two-match tie against PSV to decide who progresses to the
group stage of the lucrative Champions League, Europe's premier
club competition.
Balotelli is also expected to be called up for Italy's
friendly against Argentina on Wednesday at Rome's Stadio
Olimpico in honour of Pope Francis.
PSV, last season's runners-up in the Dutch top flight, were
probably the toughest side Milan could have been drawn against
for the playoff.
"The tie against PSV Eindhoven is the most important
contest of the season," said Milan's organisational director
Umberto Gandini at the draw at the headquarters of European
soccer's governing body UEFA in the Swiss city of Nyon.
"Reaching the group stage is an absolute priority.
"But it won't be easy to progress. Even though they've sold
some important players, PSV are a very good team.
"According to the UEFA rankings, they are the strongest
team we could have ended up against".
Milan have to try to reach the Champions League's group
stage via the preliminaries after finishing third in Serie A
last season.
Serie A champions Juventus and runners-up Napoli qualified
directly for the group stage.
Milan will face the Dutch team away on August 20, with the
return leg at Milan's San Siro Stadium on August 28.
"Playing the return leg at our home ground may be a tiny
advantage," said Gandini.
CEO Adriano Galliani, meanwhile, said Friday that Milan
are set to sign Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda in January as
they look unlikely to persuade CSKA Moscow to let him go in the
closed-season transfer window.
Milan made Honda one of their top transfer targets but the
Russian champions have so far proved unwilling to consider
letting one of their best players go, ahead of the start of the
group stage of the Champions League next month.
So Galliani said Milan will probably just wait until his
contract with CSKA expires at the end of the year and sign the
27-year-old in January as a free agent.
"He'll come in January," Galliani told reporters. "If they
want to give him to us before, fine, otherwise we'll wait until
January".
Japanese media, on the other hand, quoted Honda as saying
Milan and CSKA were close to reaching a deal.
Italy's two teams in the draw for the playoffs of the
continent's secondary competition, the Europa League, also ended
up with relatively tough opposition.
Fiorentina will face Czech side Slovan Liberec and Udinese
will take on Zurich's Grasshoppers.
Italian Cup-winners Lazio have qualified directly for the
Europa League group stage.

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