The former Rossoneri goalkeeper feels the outcome of the tie rests in the hands of a player who has often been accused of failing to perform on the grandest stage in club football
By Paolo Camedda
Massimo Taibi believes that the influence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely to prove decisive in AC Milan's Champions League last 16 tie with Arsenal.
The Sweden international has often been accused of failing to perform on the grandest stage in European football but Taibi feels that the forward, if he is on his game, has the ability to propel the Rossoneri into the quarter-finals.
"If it is Ibra’s [Zlatan Ibrahimovic] day and he plays as we know he can, he could cause a crisis in the Arsenal defence," the former Milan goalkeeper told Goal.com.
"This department is, in fact, the weak point of [Arsene] Wenger's team and I think Arsenal must fear the attack of Milan - rather than vice versa, despite the extraordinary form of [Robin] Van Persie.
"Ibra is a crucial player for the Rossoneri when he’s at 100 per cent."
However, Taibi acknowledges that there is currently very little to choose between Milan and Arsenal.
"There’s a 50 per cent chance of progressing for both sides, who at the moment are more or less equal," he argued.
"Arsenal have always played well in the Champions League, while in the league they have had some difficulties, even though now they have recovered well.
"Milan are a great side with great individuals. But because the return leg is in England, I am a little bit uncertain; otherwise I would say it’s 60% Milan and 40% Arsenal.
"It will not be easy for the Rossoneri: in front of 60,000 spectators at the Emirates, they [Arsenal] are transformed and are capable of going at 1000 miles per hour for the first 20-30 minutes.
"Milan will do well to resist their game and then counterattack. But to pack the defence would be an error."
Taibi feels, though, that the game will essentially come down to which side defends better.
Indeed, he feels that Milan must pay careful attention to Dutch forward Van Persie and hope that centre-half Thiago Silva is at his best.
"They are two great players, both critical to their team," the former Manchester United man said. "Van Persie is a very strong attacker; Thiago Silva a very fast defender and difficult to overcome.
"I think whoever wins this duel will be decisive for their team. And I think the thing that will ultimately make the difference is the defences.
"In fact, both teams often go offensive and grant space to the opposition, so it is the side that has the more solid defence that will qualify."