Barcelona - AC Milan Preview: Do or die for Champions League holders as they host stubborn Italian giants
The Blaugrana need a win at home to ensure progression after a 0-0 draw in the first leg at San Siro last week that featured a fine defensive performance from the Rossoneri
By Adam Scime
Dani Alves, Pique, Puyol, Adriano
Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta
Sanchez, Messi, Cesc
Abate, Nesta, Mexes, Antonini
Seedorf, Ambrosini, Nocerino
With this Champions League tie finely balanced, Barcelona rested several players in the 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday night, but Carles Puyol is set to return to the starting XI against AC Milan with the Catalan captain in line to partner Gerard Pique in defence.
Xavi also sat out of the game at the weekend and is struggling with a muscular problem which means if he is not passed fit, Thiago could hold on to his midfield role. Defender Eric Abidal and striker David Villa, meanwhile, remain on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
Left-back Adriano also made his comeback from injury against Athletic and is expected to feature while coach Pep Guardiola confirmed that playmaker Cesc Fabregas is available again after recovering from a back problem. The former Arsenal star is competing for a spot upfront with Pedro alongside Lionel Messi, who was denied by the Rossoneri defence in the first leg, and Alexis Sanchez.
Milan boss Massimiliano Allegri was hoping to have combative midfielder Mark van Bommel available for selection after he was suspended for the first leg, but the 34-year-old was not included in the 23-man squad due to injury so Massimo Ambrosini should once again feature.
Thiago Silva is still out due to a flexor muscle issue, so veteran Alessandro Nesta will again be in at centre-back following his impressive showing at San Siro last week.
A boost for the Rossoneri is that Alexandre Pato, who scored during the 2-2 draw at Camp Nou in the group stage, received treatment in the USA for his persistent muscle problems and has been selected for the match squad. The Brazilian is reportedly ready to feature, though it may be as a substitute with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho looking likely to lead the line once again.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Barcelona have not lost at home in Europe since October 2009, when they were defeated 2-1 by Rubin Kazan.
- The first leg 0-0 draw with Milan marked the first time in 30 matches that Guardiola's men have been held scoreless in Europe.
- Should Messi score, he will break the record of 12 goals in a single Champions League campaign which he currently shares with Ruud van Nistelrooy.
- AC Milan have an all-time record of four wins, five draws and five losses against Barcelona in European competition.
- Allegri's men have yet to win on their travels in the Champions League this season, claiming thee draws and one defeat.
- The Rossoneri defeated Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 Champions League final in Athens.
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Top 3 Predictions
FC Barcelona 1-1 AC Milan
- 17.9 %
FC Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan
- 14.43 %
FC Barcelona 2-0 AC Milan
- 9.12 %
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Nov 6, 2013||FC Barcelona 3 - AC Milan 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Oct 22, 2013||AC Milan 1 - FC Barcelona 1|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Mar 12, 2013||FC Barcelona 4 - AC Milan 0|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Feb 20, 2013||AC Milan 2 - FC Barcelona 0|
|UEFA Champions League (UCL)||Apr 3, 2012||FC Barcelona 3 - AC Milan 1|
|Dec 6, 2013||F.C. Cartagena 1 - FC Barcelona 4||ESPC|
|Dec 1, 2013||Athletic Bilbao 1 - FC Barcelona 0||LIGA|
|Nov 26, 2013||Ajax 2 - FC Barcelona 1||UCL|
|Nov 23, 2013||FC Barcelona 4 - Granada 0||LIGA|
|Nov 10, 2013||Betis 1 - FC Barcelona 4||LIGA|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
The Spain international was rested at the weekend yet is expected to start on Tuesday and he is sure to be key to his side's chances of advancing to the competition's semi-finals. If the Catalan captain can inspire his men to a clean sheet, it is difficult to imagine the Blaugrana not being able to score at Camp Nou.
Taking on his former team, the striker saw precious little of the ball in the first leg and wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring. A decisive performance in this quarter-final to knock out the reigning champions would arguably be what is needed to prove himself on the top European stage.
What's life without a few surprises? The Blaugrana will need some real inspiration to break through an organised Rossoneri, but one imagines that risk taking won't be the order of the day for either side with the visitors likely to play on the counter attack again, it could spell trouble for the hosts if Milan nick an away goal.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed