With Zlatan Ibrahimovic & Robinho Out Injured, Here Are The Five Things AC Milan Must Do To Stop The Mighty Barcelona

It's going to be an uphill task for the Serie A champions at Camp Nou this evening, so there are a number of areas that they will have to get spot-on to leave with pride intact

Nobody goes into a game against Barcelona as favourites right now, and AC Milan are no different as they head to Camp Nou tonight for their opening Champions League fixture of the 2011-12 season.

But to make matters worse, the Italian champions will be without the injured Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho as they look to defy the huge odds and collect their first three points in Group H.

Even a point would be seen as a massive psychological boost for the Rossoneri should they match the Catalans, but it will take a combination of factors coming together for them to stop the European champions in their tracks.

Below, we offer five of the biggest tasks that Milan must fulfill in order to come away from tonight's clash with a positive result.


The popular belief after Friday's Serie A draw with Lazio was that Antonio Cassano had had a positive evening. One goal, an assist, and an effort off the post were the highlights of his night, but his all-round play was still a fair way short of his best. Too often he was unable to get the basics right, as he mistimed passes, hit the first man with crosses, and took the wrong options on the ball in Milan's quest to complete a winning comeback.

And now even without the injured Ibrahimovic, he will not start tonight, with Urby Emanuelson set to be preferred. But Cassano could still have a big impact to make if his side are to gain a morale-boosting victory, and it could help his claim to be a longer-term starter.

When he plays alongside Ibrahimovic, he often does so with fear, rushing passes in a bid to satisfy the demands of the Swede, but with Alexandre Pato as his strike partner, he regularly seems more at ease. Massimiliano Allegri will hope that this is the case in Catalunya this evening, because the likelihood of Cassano remaining unused for the full 90 minutes is slim.


As little as two years ago, a Milan defence without Alessandro Nesta was just about a lost cause. But these days the former Italy international is a shadow of his former self, so much so that many are tipping Philippe Mexes to win a first-team place ahead of him when he returns to full fitness in the next four weeks.

And Nesta's season didn't exactly start well against former club Lazio at San Siro, with his slowing reactions being features of both Biancocelesti goals.

Coming up against Barcelona, there may be some attributes you could get away with lacking sharpness on, but lightning quick reactions to the Blaugrana's forward movement is not one of them. Nesta is going to have to be on his toes for 90 minutes alongside Thiago Silva if Milan are to keep the score down.


In the final 19 league games of last season, Milan conceded only seven goals. It was their discipline off the ball, just as much as their ability on it, which led to them lifting an 18th Scudetto.

But that structure was notable by its absence on Friday, and they must not allow Barca the kind of chances that were afforded to Lazio on Friday. Two goals, plus clear-cut chances for Miroslav Klose, Anderson Hernanes and Djibril Cisse could well have cost them dearly, and you have to believe that similar opportunities for the European champions will prove more costly for the Rossoneri.

It is not just the defence that need to be on their toes either, as it was Mark van Bommel's influence at the base of the midfield which transformed them as a resistant outfit after January, and his return to form against his old side - and his old foe, Andres Iniesta - will be crucial to Milan having any hope.


With Barcelona's famed ability to keep the ball, especially when Xavi Hernandez has it at his feet, there will need to be extra thought put into how Milan can stem the flow of attacks coming from the home side.

To that end, van Bommel and Massimo Ambrosini are going to need more support in the defensive side of their midfield duties than Alberto Aquilani can offer.

Though Aquilani had a hand in both goals in the Serie A opener, he also left them short at times, and his attacking influence faded pretty quickly. Only after he was replaced by fellow debutant Antonio Nocerino did Milan provide both a steel core and a renewed threat on the ball.

The former Palermo man may not be the silky artist in possession that Aquilani is often seen as, but he has the tenacity off the ball and the energy on it to keep things tight and industrious behind the more artistic forward players.

And that is exactly what Milan are going to need from their midfield three. This will not be a game where the opponents sit back and they need to come up with ways through. It will be a war of attrition in the centre of the park for the visitors. All of which means that Nocerino is the right man for the occasion.

Tonight's game will be a test of nerve for most of those involved. Fans, presidents, players and coaches will all feel their teeth edging towards the fingernails at various points during the 90 minutes.

For Massimiliano Allegri it will be especially so. Perhaps the biggest single test of his coaching career so far awaits him this evening, as he heads for the same dugout from which so many great bosses have looked on helpless against Pep Guardiola's side.

But just as there will come times when he has to hold his nerve, so too there will be moments when he has to take decisive action in order to steer his side back on course, and no matter how early or late those occasions come, he must be ready.

Taking only two recognised strikers with him to Catalunya is undoubtedly a handicap, but he has shown the adaptability so far in his Milan reign to suggest that he knows how to change a game in tough situations. He didn't really cover himself in glory in that regard in his last crack at the Champions League though, as his team went down to Tottenham Hotspur. So, tonight, he needs to be quicker out of the blocks if things aren't going his way.

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