Pellegrini wary of wounded Milan

Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini has warned his men not to read too much into AC Milan’s poor domestic start to the season and expects a “difficult” Champions League clash on Wednesday (Malaga Evens, Milan 11/4, draw 5/2 – Match Prices with bet365).

The two sides will do battle at La Rosaleda Stadium in midweek with the La Liga outfit top of the Group C table after back-to-back victories over Zenit St Petersburg and Anderlecht (Malaga 10/11 – Group C Winner with bet365).

But things are about to get a lot tougher as they welcome the Serie A giants to Spain for the third match in Europe’s elite club competition.

Malaga have enjoyed an excellent first couple of months of the new campaign and are riding high in third place in the Spanish top flight with 17 points from eight games played.

Conversely, the Rossoneri are still reeling from the loss of so many big players in the summer and have won only twice and lost five games to sit in 15th place in the Serie A standings.

But they have performed better in Europe and are still unbeaten heading into the Malaga match-up and sit second in the table.

Pellegrini is aware of this fact and insists he will be taking nothing for granted against a side that will give little away throughout the 90 minutes.

“It is not for me to talk of Milan,” he said. “They are not going well in the Italian League, but in the Champions League they have won four of six possible points.

“They are going to be very difficult to beat. Milan are undergoing a major cyclical change and that has taken its toll in the League, but they have been better in the Champions League.”

Allegri issues rallying cry

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri insists his men must up their game if they are to beat Zenit St Petersburg in the Champions League on Wednesday (Zenit 11/10, Milan 5/2, draw 12/5 – Match Prices with bet365).

The Italian outfit endured a torrid off-season with 12 players leaving the club during the summer, including influential duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, and things have not exactly started well on the pitch this term either.

The Rossoneri have failed to spark in Serie A and sit in 11th place in the table with just seven points to their name and three defeats already.

And they were unable to break down Belgian side Anderlecht at the San Siro two weeks ago, playing out a goalless draw in their opening Group C fixture in Europe’s top club competition.

Times are tough at the former giants of European football with many pundits feeling they will struggle to even make the knock-out stage of the Champions League this season.

And with Malaga beating the Russians last time out, victory at the Petrovsky Stadium is vital if the seven-time European champions are to keep pace with the Spaniards at the top of the group table (Milan 13/8 – Group C Winners with bet365).

But Allegri knows it will not be easy and has urged his charges to raise their level against a side he feels can cause them problems.

“We have to prove to be a good team on a technical level,” he said. “But we still have a lot to improve on. Zenit are a very good team.

“(Manager) Luciano Spalletti is an excellent coach. He won the Coppa Italia with Roma and has won the League here in Russia. His teams always play good football.”

Mourinho happy for Kaka exit

Real Madrid (7/2 to win the Champions League with bet365) manager Jose Mourinho has said that Brazilian star Kaka can leave the Bernabeu, but only at the right price.

The midfielder has been at the centre of much transfer speculation this summer, linked with a move to former club AC Milan who are 11/4 to win the Italian Serie A with bet365).

With the current Spanish champions looking to bolster their midfield, Tottenham’s Luka Modric being hotly tipped to move to Spain, and Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil seemingly preferred to the 30-year-old in the central roles, it appears Kaka may be surplus to requirements.

“If Kaka stays I would be happy and I am happy if he wants to go. In football it is normal that the players play where they want,” said the Portuguese coach.

“He is a very good footballer and prepared to be at his maximum level. If he decides to stay, then perfect. If he goes, that’s perfect too but we are not going to give him away for free. Those that want him have to pay for him.”

Kaka featured in a friendly against AC Milan on Wednesday night, where as a player he notched up 70 goals at the San Siro-based club.

Guardiola fears Chelsea spirit

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola is wary of the threat posed by Chelsea in their Champions League tie and feels they might struggle to score in Wednesday’s first leg (Chelsea 4/1, Barca 7/10, draw 11/4 Match Prices with bet365).

The Catalans head into the match as overwhelming favourites to win on the night and to qualify for the final as they are in red-hot form and have been sweeping all before them in La Liga.

The reigning European champions have closed to within four points of league-leading Real Madrid after 11 consecutive victories and they will face Jose Mourinho’s men in ‘El Clasico’ on Saturday night to try and make it a one-point gap.

And they have been equally as impressive in Europe, taking care of AC Milan in the quarter-finals to set up the clash with Roberto di Matteo’s side.

Despite being widely recognised as the best club side on the planet, Guardiola insists he will be taking nothing for granted at Stamford Bridge and believes chances for his charges may be at a premium despite the fact that they have been scoring goals for fun domestically (Only Chelsea to Score 8/1 with bet365).

“I’m struggling to see how we’ll hurt them, create chances and score,” he said. “We shouldn’t forget they’ve been very consistent here in this stadium, winning all five of their games.”

Barca knocked Chelsea out of the tournament in a highly-controversial semi-final three years ago and Guardiola is predicting a similar tussle this time around.

“They have the same spirit, the same soul, the same foundation,” he added. “They’ve changed the manager and a couple of players, but the same players are largely there.”

Ramires – Blues focused on Benfica not Barca

Chelsea midfielder Ramires insists there will be no talk of a possible semi-final showdown with Barcelona ahead of what he expects to be a tough clash with Benfica on Wednesday night (Chelsea 8/13, Benfica 9/2, draw 3/1 Match Prices with bet365).

The Catalans are through to the last four of Europe’s elite club competition after taking care of AC Milan on Tuesday and they will face the winner of the tie at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea hold a 1-0 advantage going into the second leg court courtesy of Salomon Kalou’s 75th-minute winner in Lisbon last week and they are strong favourites to progress to the last four of the Champions League (Chelsea 1/8, Benfica 5/1 To Qualify with bet365).

Benfica coach Jorge Jesus has already made it clear that he feels Chelsea were lucky to win the first leg and is confident of overturning the deficit in west London.

And Ramires stressed that it is the media and not the players that have been broaching the subject of a potential showdown with Pep Guardiola’s side.

“There’s a lot of talk already about Barcelona but we, as players, don’t look that far ahead,” the Brazil international said. “We’re concentrating on every game as it comes.”

The 25-year-old South American admits that his side are in a decent position in the tie but is expecting Benfica to come out fighting.

“We’ve got an important advantage from the first game, for sure, but we’ll face a serious challenge in this match with 90 minutes ahead of us,” he added. “When you’re playing Benfica, you know it’ll be tough.”