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UEFA Champions League

  • September 13, 2011
  • • 19:45
  • • Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Referee: M. Atkinson
  • • Attendance: 89861
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Champions League Preview: Barcelona - AC Milan

Champions League Preview: Barcelona - AC Milan

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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


PROBABLE LINE-UPS
Barcelona (4-1-2-3): Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Abidal, Adriano; Busquets; Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa

Olympiakos Piraeus


Despite Javier Mascherano being available for selection, Eric Abidal should come into the fold, replacing Fontas at the heart of the defence. 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 favour of Sergio Busquets, who started in defence 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 pre-season.

AC Milan (4-3-1-2): Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Silva, Antonini; Nocerino, van Bommel, Aquilani; Boateng; Cassano, Ibrahimovic

AC Milan



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 remain 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 have 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 their 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 defences with a 2-2 draw; Lecce in 1999 and Livorno in 2004.
  • Although the Milanese outfit have won the opening fixture in their last 10 Champions League group stage campaigns, they have 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.

Players to watch

L. Messi

Position: Attacker

Games: 4

  • 4
  • 0
  • 0
After being utilised only as a substitute at the weekend, the little magician will return to the starting XI and he will have to fulfill his role as the withdrawn striker if the hosts are to have the best possible of chance of conquering their Italian counterparts. The stage is all set for him, with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Villa all ready to supply the ammunition and after a frustrating cameo on Saturday against Real Sociedad, he is sure to be fired up from the offset, aiming to use his mesmerising ability on the ball to great effect against Milan's creaky rearguard.

Z. Ibrahimovic

Position: Attacker

Games: 0

  • 0
  • 0
  • 0
A close toss-up with fellow forward Antonio Cassano, the big Swede will undoubtedly possess a burning desire to prove former mentor Pep Guardiola wrong, after a turbulent season in the Catalan region. Now with his career firmly back on track and preparing to play a key role in Milan's trophy assault this season, they will need him to maintain his sky-high levels when on top of his game, as his devastating combination of power and precision is unparalled, and may finally be displayed on the biggest of stages, namely Camp Nou.

Editor's Prediction

Overall, the Camp Nou outfit look likely to nick the victory, but not without making hard work of it. Despite the Italians' impressive armoury in attack, the return of Carles Puyol is sure to provide the rock-steady presence at the back that they may have missed during recent times, and there is sure to be some Messi magic on a few occasions, which may exploit the agility of an ageing Alessandro Nesta. The midfield battle that is set to ensue will also inspire, as Allegri prepares to match Barca's ruthless pursuit of possession by naming runners of his own in the middle of the park, albeit with less technical qualities. However, both sides will strive to make a point after their respective draws, meaning one thing is certain - it will be a hugely fascinating encounter, which will be won by either a scrappy set-piece, or a moment of brilliance.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Barcelona

Milan

Wins
3
1
1
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

FC Barcelona FCB
FC Barcelona Barcelona
Draw
AC Milan MIL
AC Milan Milan
46%
45%

Top 3 Predictions

FC Barcelona FCB
1 - 2
AC Milan MIL
FC Barcelona FCB
0 - 2
AC Milan MIL
FC Barcelona FCB
3 - 1
AC Milan MIL

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