The perennial giants of European football prepare to lock horns in what promises to be a titanic encounter at Camp Nou to kick off this season's action in Group H
|Barcelona (4-1-2-3): Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Abidal, Adriano; Busquets; Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa
Despite Javier Mascherano being available for selection, Eric Abidal should come into the fold, replacing Fontas at the heart of the defense. However, the biggest news for Barcelona will be the return of captain-fantastic Carles Puyol, who is ready to take his rightful spot alongside the Frenchman, after successfully returning from knee surgery.
Thiago Alcantara and Seydou Keita are set to be dropped in midfield in favor of Sergio Busquets, who started in defense at the weekend, and Andres Iniesta. In addition, Alexis Sanchez's torn hamstring means David Villa should slot back in on the left and Lionel Messi will replace Cesc Fabregas as the Blaugrana's 'false No. 9' in attack.
Unfortunately for the Champions League holders, there is still no sign of Gerard Pique, who continues to heal from a calf tear he sustained during preseason.
|AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Silva, Antonini; Nocerino, van Bommel, Aquilani; Boateng; Cassano, Ibrahimovic
Massimiliano Allegri is set to make a a couple of changes in personnel following the draw against Lazio last Friday, although Taye Taiwo and Mathieu Flamini remain on the sidelines.
The aforementioned alterations are in midfield, as Mark van Bommel, who is set to start against his former employers, should be instructed to perform in the absence of Gennaro Gattuso, who continues to see out a further four-match suspension.
In addition, Antonio Nocerino is likely to get the nod ahead of Massimo Ambrosini, who put in an industrial debut shift against Lazio off the substitute's bench. There were whispers that the ex-Palermo man would be cup-tied, but his new club have since confirmed that this isn't the case.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Goalkeeper Victor Valdes is now Barcelona's record appearance holder, after surpassing Andoni Zubizarreta's tally of 410 on Saturday.
- Pep Guardiola is the most successful coach in Barca history with 12 titles to his name, since beating Johan Cruyff's haul of 11. Also, Xavi is the club's most successful player, winning 18 trophies.
- Barcelona remains unbeaten at Camp Nou in Europe since a 2-1 defeat to Rubin Kazan in 2009-10 - a run of 10 games.
- Pep Guardiola's side has qualified for the group stage of the Champions League 16 times, losing an opening match just once - a 3-2 reverse agaisnt Newcastle United during 1997-98.
- AC Milan stretched its unbeaten run to nine games in Serie A at the weekend, which dates all the way back to March, when they lost 1-0 to Palermo.
- Their 2-2 draw with Lazio also means that the Rossoneri have now kicked off their past three Scudetto defenses with a 2-2 draw; Lecce in 1999 and Livorno in 2004.
- Although the Milanese outfit have won the opening fixture in its last 10 Champions League group stage campaigns, it has won just one of their past four European matches, scoring none in the past three.
- The two clubs have met 11 times in Europe, with four wins each and three draws, as Barcelona's record at home to Milan reads two victories, two ties and one loss.
- The most memorable meeting between Barca and Milan remains the 1994 Champions League final in Athens, which the Italians won 4-0, and it continues to be the most prolific final victory of the Champions League era.