Real, AC Milan hit top form

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PARIS, October 18 – Real Madrid and AC Milan, the two must successful teams in Champions League history, meet to contest supremacy in Group G on Tuesday, having both hit form in recent weeks.Real, nine times European champions, went top of La Liga with a convincing 4-1 win at Malaga on Saturday, while seven-time winners Milan briefly topped the Serie A table following a 3-1 victory at home to Chievo before Lazio regained the summit late on Sunday.

Real top Group G after winning their opening two matches, with Milan two points behind after a 1-1 draw at Ajax.

Defeat at the Santiago Bernabeu would leave Milan at risk of being drawn into a scrap for second place with Ajax and Auxerre, who meet in Amsterdam, and the Italians are sweating on the fitness of centre-back Thiago Silva.

The Brazilian picked up an ankle injury against Chievo and coach Massimiliano Allegri conceded that he was a major doubt for the trip to Madrid.

"We hope he won’t miss it but we’ve got (Daniele) Bonera, who’s ready to play," said Allegri.

"He’s got a sprained ankle, which our doctors will evaluate. But our squad is certainly ready to play an important game such as Tuesday’s against Real Madrid."

Milan won 3-2 when the sides met in Madrid in the group phase last season and playmaker Ronaldinho has a fine record at the Bernabeu, having inspired former club Barcelona to a 3-0 victory there in November 2005 that drew a standing ovation from the home fans.

Any confidence in the Milan ranks must be offset by the presence in the opposition dugout of Jose Mourinho, who became the scourge of the rossoneri fans during his richly successful two-year spell at city rivals Inter.

Mourinho’s tenure at the San Siro culminated in an unprecedented treble last season, secured with victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final at the Bernabeu, and there are signs that he is beginning to work his magic at Real.

After an indifferent start they have scored 10 goals in their last two games — having thrashed Deportivo La Coruna 6-1 on October 3 — and forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Gonzalo Higuain both scored twice in the win in Malaga.

"We are playing well and winning," Ronaldo told the Real website.

"I knew the goals would come sooner or later. I am happy because I played a great match and the team played well overall.

"We know that if we win on Tuesday that we will have one foot in the next round. We play at home and are obliged to win. It will be a great match."

Like Real, Chelsea and Arsenal are both on course for the knockout phase after winning their opening two group games.

Chelsea face an arduous trip to Group F co-leaders Spartak Moscow on Tuesday, with French champions Marseille hosting Slovakians MSK Zilina in the other group game.

Chelsea remained top of the English Premier League after a 0-0 draw at Aston Villa on Saturday, but they are likely to be without striker Didier Drogba (fever) and influential midfielder Frank Lampard (hernia) for the trip to Russia.

"The players who could be OK for the Spartak game are Daniel Sturridge, Alex and (Salomon) Kalou," said Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti.

"I hope they can make it. We have to look at them in training."

Arsenal, 2-1 victors at home to Birmingham at the weekend, will come up against a familiar face when they tackle Shakhtar Donetsk in Group H.

Croatian striker Eduardo will head to the away dressing room at the Emirates for the first time following his summer switch from Arsenal to the Ukrainians and he admits it will be a special evening.

"If I play it will be very emotional, but I’m just trying to concentrate on the game and I am calm about the match," he said.

In Group E, leaders Bayern host CFR Cluj of Romania, while second-placed Roma take on Basel in the Italian capital.

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