AC Milan - Celtic Preview: Rossoneri without El Shaarawy & Kaka for Group H opener

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AC Milan will have to battle a lengthy injury list when they begin their Champions League campaign against Celtic on Wednesday.

The seven-time winners of Europe's premier club competition already had Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Matias Silvestre, Daniele Bonera and Giampaolo Pazzini sidelined prior to their 2-2 draw with Torino.

HOW WILL CELTIC APPROACH THE CL?
THE DOSSIER: Departure of Victor Wanyama leaves Neil Lennon's side weaker in midfield

To make matters worse, Stephan El Shaarawy was forced to pull out of that game with a thigh problem, Riccardo Montolivo was withdrawn from the action with a similar injury and Kaka around faces a month out with a thigh strain.

Although the Rossoneri will be down to the bare bones for the Celtic clash, coach Massimiliano Allegri told the club's official website: "We'll make do with who we have and we'll have fresh players ready to play what is a delicate and important game."

Allegri's men have won just one of their first three games in Serie A and only salvaged a point at Torino courtesy of late goals from Sulley Muntari and Mario Balotelli.

A similarly slow start in European competition could well prove costly as Milan have been drawn in a difficult Group H that also features Barcelona and Ajax.

Celtic will be aiming to follow up last season's impressive showing in the Champions League, which was highlighted by a shock 2-1 home victory over Barcelona.

CHAMPIONS CLUB
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He has experienced two notable near misses in Europe's top club competition, first when losing to Arsenal in the semi-finals in 2006 thanks to a Juan Roman Riquelme missed penalty and then to two inconceivably late goals against Borussia Dortmund in the quarter-finals last time out.

It is clear everybody is on the same page at the Etihad Stadium and this year they will expect a vast improvement. Viktoria Plzen, CKSA Moscow and Bayern Munich stand in City's way as they look to build a European portfolio befitting the millions of pounds they have spent since 2008.

City finished bottom of their, albeit difficult, group last season but, if their elimination was embarrassing, Chelsea's was downright ignominious. The Blues became the first defending champions of the modern competition's 20-year history to fail to get out of the group, meaning Roberto Di Matteo was relieved of his duties just months after delivering the famous trophy.

Of course, Jose Mourinho is back in town and he will be extremely confident (even more so) of going far in the tournament. Schalke, Basel and Steaua Bucharest are no mugs but Mourinho has overcome tougher opponents in his time. Indeed, the Portuguese has reached at least the semi-finals in his last three Champions League seasons, including winning the lot with Inter in 2010.

Britain's other proud representatives, Celtic, will certainly have a fight on their hands. If they are to repeat last season's feat of emerging from the group, they will have to surpass two of Barcelona, AC Milan and Ajax. Famously, the Bhoys downed Barca at Parkhead last season and the Rossoneri at the same venue in 2007, so don't rule out the improbable.

Elsewhere, two of Europe's giants go head-to-head in Group B, with Real Madrid and Juventus joined by Galatasaray and Copenhagen. Madrid's city rivals, Atletico, must contend with an equally tough set of fixtures against Porto, Zenit St Petersburg and Austria Vienna.

Paris Saint-Germain, who came so close to knocking out Barcelona last season, will go again alongside Benfica, Anderlecht and Olympaikos.

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