Goal.com's Debjit Lahiri looks into the possible return of star striker Pato and how he may well be key in Milan getting past the mighty Barcelona..It was the pitch at San Siro that hogged all the limelight in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals as Milan slogged out a goalless draw against Barcelona. The Catalan's dissatisfaction after the match was evident and it culminated into an official complaint to UEFA against it, further adding fuel to the fire and somewhat sweeping off the footballing aspects of the match under the carpet.
Well, there are couple of ways to look at the result from the Rossoneri point of view. First, failing to win at their own backyard which would mean they will have to better their performance at the Nou Camp, a place no less than a fortress. Second, a lifeline considering they didn't concede an away goal at home and the fact that even a single Milan goal at Nou Camp could swing the tie drastically in their favour.
Tactically speaking, Barcelona enjoyed the major share of the possession but Milan with their physical play managed to shrug them off for the entire 90 minutes and relied mainly on counter-attacks. They would however have liked more precision at the final third and a better finishing.
Nevertheless, as if to answer their prayers, Milan have just been handed a massive boost with star striker Alexandre Pato set to return from his long injury lay off and he may well go on to play a part in the second leg.
The Brazilian international was continually being plagued by muscular injuries and recently travelled to the United States to undergo a number of tests to find out the cause of his physical problems.
Milan health coordinator Jean Pierre Meersseman was encouraged by the results of the preliminary tests carried out on Pato, and the 22-year-old forward returned to Italy on Saturday and would resume training from Sunday.
When asked if the forward could be available for the important clash next week, he said: "Can he play against Barcelona? He's ready and he will be at the coach's disposal."
And it wasn't surprising that he was called into the squad straightaway by Allegri. Milan will perhaps be able to pair up their best strikers - Pato and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. On a tactical note, the duo could be absolutely ideal to counter the Barca system.
This will be exactly where Ibrahimovic's physical aspect would come into play and he would be able to hold the play, as he so well does, and roll it off to Pato to make the run who is himself much quicker and would be able to assist the Swedish international better than anyone else in the team.
It is in fact the sheer agility of Pato that would allow him to mould well with Milan's counter-attacking style of play and with Gerard Pique not in his best of form, he may well catch the Barca defense napping as he did in the 24th second of their group stage match earlier in the season at Camp Nou.
From the Barca point of view, if Zlatan and Pato do end up pairing, the centre backs will have to be on their toes, which would mean they may well have to curtail their forward runs higher up on the pitch. So, in a way, it slightly eases up the pressure on the Milan defense too.
Further, Robinho hasn't been always his best against the big teams as was evidenced in the first leg. The Brazilian lacked proper ball control and often his first touches were nothing less than being pathetic. Pato in his place would certainly be expected to do a better job.
However, having said that, Pato will be lacking match fitness and it is difficult to say if he does play, whether he will be as sharp as he normally is. But merely on a theoretical point of view, Pato's inclusion in the Milan line up does give them a better chance to progress further than without him.
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