Kaka set to lead Madrid against former club Milan

With Cristiano Ronaldo out with an ankle injury, Kaka will be the leader when Real Madrid plays his former club AC Milan on Wednesday in the Champions League.

Madrid and Milan have combined to win 16 European Cups, but Madrid is under pressure for a 10th this season after spending more than €250 million ($365 million) on new players, including Kaka.

“This is something new for me and tomorrow we’ll see how I play,” the Brazil midfielder said Tuesday.

Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini expects a standout performance from the playmaker at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, which will host the competition’s final in May.

“There’s a special shine to his eyes,” the Chilean coach said.

Madrid’s last European Cup trophy came in 2002, while Milan has won two since then.

“We’re talking about a Milan-Madrid (match), two teams with a clear history,” Milan coach Leonardo said through a translator. “This game brings a lot of tradition between two of the biggest clubs in the world.”

Madrid leads Group C with six points after wins over Marseille and FC Zurich, which beat Milan 1-0 at home to leave the Italian team with three points.

Milan beat AS Roma 2-1 Sunday to snap a four-game winless streak and calm calls for new coach Leonardo’s ouster.

Leonardo is not overlooking Madrid’s “marvelous” team but believes Ronaldinho is hitting better form just in time as the Brazilian returns to a stadium where he has marveled in the past with Barcelona.

“We’re starting to see the real Ronaldinho,” Leonardo said.

Kaka, who played with Ronaldinho last season, wasn’t convinced.

“I don’t know what happened to him because his level has dropped so. He’s gone three years without making a difference,” Kaka said. “He needs to recover his motivation to become one of the world’s best again and to return to the national team.”

Milan will be without midfielder Gennaro Gattuso (knee) and goalkeeper Marco Storari (muscle), which means Dida should fill in.

“(Dida) had a good return. Everyone who’s been called on in this team is giving a hand,” Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf said. “These are the games everyone wants to play in and participate in.”

Pellegrini said his club would attack from the start, but will not be able to call on midfielder Jose Maria “Guti” Gutierrez (ankle). Defender Alvaro Arbeloa and midfielder Lassana Diarra are available, however, while striker Gonzalo Higuain could start following impressive performances against Valladolid and with Argentina last week.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Pellegrini said.