AC Milan - Barcelona Preview: In-form visitors hope to take advantage of Thiago Silva's absence in Champions League
The Brazilian's injury has further tipped the odds in the tournament favourites' direction ahead of the quarter-final first leg as the Rossoneri try to cope withoout the defender
By Adam Scime
Bonera, Nesta, Mexes, Antonini
Aquilani, Ambrosini, Nocerino
Dani Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Puyol
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Cesc, Messi, Sanchez
AC Milan's chances of dethroning the Champions League holders were dealt a major blow as centre-half Thiago Silva, who scored during a 2-2 draw between the two sides earlier this season, limped out of the Rossoneri's weekend clash with Roma.
He has been ruled out for both legs of this quarter-final, meaning coach Massimiliano Allegri will reshuffle the defence by welcoming back veteran Alessandro Nesta, while Daniele Bonera will slot in at right-back in place of the injured Ignazio Abate.
Another key absence is the suspended midfield enforcer Mark Van Bommel, but Kevin-Prince Boateng and playmaker Clarence Seedorf are once again available and both could start, though Alberto Aquilani and Urby Emanuelson are also possibilities in the centre of the pitch.
Ibrahimovic, who tops the Serie A scoring charts with 22 goals, will lead the line against his former side. Robinho has recovered from an ankle problem and is likely to start alongside the former Inter star ahead of Maxi Lopez and Stephan El Shaarawy. Alexandre Pato has gone to the USA for treatment on his persistent muscle injuries and will not feature on Wednesday.
Barcelona have a few worries of their own as defender Eric Abidal is scheduled for a liver transplant and another left-back option, Adriano, is suffering from a thigh strain.
Therefore, Carles Puyol is likely to be moved to left-back with Javier Mascherano partnering Gerard Pique at centre-back. Coach Pep Guardiola could opt for a 3-4-3 system which he used against AC Milan earlier in the campaign.
Dutch winger Ibrahim Afellay has been included in the matchday squad to continue his training, but will not take part in the actual fixture, following his recovery from knee ligament damage. Spain international striker David Villa remains a long term casualty.
Which players will partner Lionel Messi upfront remains a mystery, but the two front-runners appear to be Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez, with Pedro also in contention for a place in the starting XI.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- AC Milan have never lost the home leg of a European Cup quarter-final tie, winning 10 and drawing four.
- AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 8/1 to score the first goal against Barcelona on Wednesday night with 188Bet.
- The Serie A champions have conceded 11 goals, the most times of any side left in this season's competition.
- Current Milan players Ibrahimovic, Maxi Lopez, Van Bommel and Zambrotta have all had spells with the Blaugrana during their careers.
- Barcelona have already beaten AC Milan at San Siro this season, winning 3-2 on Matchday 5 during Group H action.
- Guardiola's side topped Group H with 16 points and the Italians were runners-up with nine points.
- The Catalans have won nine matches in a row in all competitions since a 3-2 loss to Osasuna in early February.
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Top 3 Predictions
AC Milan 1-3 Barcelona
- 17.49 %
AC Milan 2-0 Barcelona
- 13.7 %
AC Milan 2-1 Barcelona
- 11.35 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||6 Nov 2013||Barcelona 3 - AC Milan 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||22 Oct 2013||AC Milan 1 - Barcelona 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||12 Mar 2013||Barcelona 4 - AC Milan 0|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||20 Feb 2013||AC Milan 2 - Barcelona 0|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||3 Apr 2012||Barcelona 3 - AC Milan 1|
|16 Dec 2013||AC Milan 2 - Roma 2||SR-A|
|11 Dec 2013||AC Milan 0 - Ajax 0||UCL|
|7 Dec 2013||Livorno 2 - AC Milan 2||SR-A|
|1 Dec 2013||Catania 1 - AC Milan 3||SR-A|
|26 Nov 2013||Celtic 0 - AC Milan 3||UCL|
|92||Stephan El Shaarawy||Striker|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
Without Thiago Silva, the 36-year-old defender will have to replicate his performance from the 2-2 draw at Camp Nou earlier this season when he put in a classy display and was practically a wall in defence, reading and cutting out so many of the Blaugrana’s attacks with well-timed challenges. Nesta will have to once again be at his very best if Allegri’s side are to take anything back to Spain for the second leg.
Seemingly breaking all kinds of records recently, Messi has been in quite amazing form and his quickness on and off the ball could prove pivotal in breaking through the Italians’ defence. Already the top scorer in this year’s competition thus far, bagging five in his last Champions League match versus Leverkusen, Messi will look to take advantage of the absences of Van Bommel and Thiago Silva to add to his tally.
Both sides have defensive absences, but Milan's in particular are much more influential, it's doubtful they can stop the Barcelona juggernaut at the moment, barring a stupendous performance from Ibrahimovic against his former club at San Siro.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed