Stakes raised in semi showdown
© Foto-net

UEFA Champions League holders AC Milan make their tournament bow against their AFC counterparts Urawa Red Diamonds. Buoyed by an emphatic 3-1 win over Sepahan in the quarter-finals and cheered on by their army of vociferous fans, the Japanese now have the Italian aristocrats in their sights. Carlo Ancelotti's men will need to tread carefully if they are to avoid one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition.

The game
Urawa Red Diamonds-AC Milan, Yokohama, Thursday 13 December, 19.30 (local time)

The stakes
After lifting the AFC Champions League trophy, Urawa lost momentum at the end of the domestic season to let Kashima Antlers steal the J-League crown from under their noses. Similarly impressive in their continental commitments, having coasted into the second round of the UEFA Champions league, the Rossoneri find themselves marooned in the mid-table positions in Serie A. What better way then for both sides to forget their domestic blues than by going for glory at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007?

The players
Nobuhisa Yamada, Tatsuya Tanaka and Tadaaki Hirakawa are all injury doubts for the Japanese side, while the European champions are waiting for news on Dida's troublesome back. One man definitely out is Ronaldo.

The past
The two teams have never met before and the only encounter between Asian and European sides in the tournament took place in the inaugural tournament in 2000, when Real Madrid of Spain defeated Saudi Arabia's Al-Nassr 3-1 in Sao Paulo. The Milanese giants made their last appearance in the Intercontinental (Toyota) Cup in 2003 when they lost to Boca Juniors on penalties.

The words
"Our aim was to reach the semi-finals and play AC Milan, one of the best teams on the planet. This is a terrific opportunity for us. Of course, we're facing a very difficult task but we're looking to represent Japanese football and the colours of our club as best we possibly can. I'm hoping our fans can push us in the right direction." Holger Osieck, Urawa Red Diamonds coach

"Our objective here couldn't be clearer - we want to go back to Milan with the trophy. It won't be easy but we'll be trying as hard as we can. Urawa are a very technical side who have benefited a lot from the tactical know-how of their German coach. They are very experienced players and they'll have the fans behind them. Believe me, we really need to be on our guard." Carlo Ancelotti, AC Milan coach