26 March 2020
2002-2007: Champions League break at the end of March, apart from…
You could tell that AC Milan were not used to it. In the Champions League format in which the Rossoneri had five historic years (two wins, one runner-up, one semi-final and one quarter-final), the last ten days of March was an International break which gave teams a little pause before the final rounds of the competition. At the end of March 2003, AC Milan had completed the group stage and were awaiting their two-legged quarter-final clash against Ajax in April.
The same happened in 2005 when the Rossoneri were waiting for the EuroDerby having eliminated Manchester United, in 2006 they had a break after beating Bayern Munich before facing Lyon in the following round, and in 2007 after the double-header against Celtic at the beginning of March they had a break before meeting Bayern at the beginning of April.
There was only one exception to all this. In 2004, AC Milan took to the pitch on 23 March against Deportivo La Coruna at San Siro, this was ahead of the usual schedule due to the European Championship at the end of the season. Therefore, it was a quarter-final taking place at a different time to those other years. The match ended well, but the strain of those unusual dates would then be felt in the return leg.
In any case, that 23 March was full of enthusiasm at San Siro. However, that excitement was misleading as it created the feeling that qualification had been secured after that 4-1 win in favour of AC Milan after four Rossoneri goals in eight minutes. However, then in the second leg…all in good time.
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