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Champions League Preview: AC Milan - Manchester United

Kick-Off: Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 20:45 CET.
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan.


Champions League Salvation

Before their game against Udinese on Friday, Milan hadn't won a game in any competition since their defeat to Inter in the Derby della Madonnina. But the 3-2 win against the Bianconeri has put the Rossoneri back on track.

At the moment Milan are third in the Serie A table and at this stage, all they can aspire to accomplish in the domestic arena this campaign is to finish second. Leonardo's side are out of the Coppa Italia and the Champions League is the only way that they can gain salvation.

Playing Manchester United at home in the first-leg of the Round of 16 wouldn't necessarily be an easy task and perhaps Leonardo would have liked the first-leg to have been at Old Trafford. However, the last time the two giants of European football clashed was in the 2006-2007 Champions League semi-finals, which Milan won 5-3 on aggregate.

Moreover, Milan defeated Real Madrid 3-2 at the Bernabeu in the group stages and held the neo-Galacticos to a 1-1 draw at home, so they wouldn't be intimidated by the Red Devils, who do not have a superstar in his prime except Wayne Rooney.

Sheen Lost But Spirit Retained

After Manchester United lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid in the summer, many thought that this season the reigning English champions would struggle. Which they did initially and on occasions, but at the moment United are second in the Premier League table, just a solitary point behind leaders Chelsea. Moreover, they won their group in the Champions League quite comfortably.

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However, United have yet to come up against any big teams in the Champions League this season and Milan would be their toughest test yet. But playing the first-leg away from home would be a good thing for the Red Devils as they would know that even a defeat wouldn't be bad.

It would be interesting to see how the traveling United fans take to the fact that their former idol and icon David Beckham would be playing against them for the first time since he left Old Trafford in 2003. Beckham has already remarked that he wouldn't celebrate if he scores against his old side but was quick to point out that it wouldn't matter if he doesn't feature on Tuesday night as long as Milan garner a victory.

Another point of interest is that the Rossoneri have never failed to progress when they have faced the English giants in a two-legged tie.


FORM GUIDE

Milan

February 12 v Udinese (H) - WON 3-2 (Serie A)

February 7 v Bologna (A) - DREW 0-0 (Serie A)

January 31 v Livorno (H) - DREW 1-1 (Serie A)

January 27 v Udinese (H) - LOST 1-0 (Coppa Italia)

January 25 v Inter (A) - LOST 2-0 (Serie A)

Manchester United

February 10 v Aston Villa (A) - DREW 1-1 (Premier League)

February 6 v Portsmouth (H) - WON 5-0 (Premier League)

January 31 v Arsenal (A) - WON 3-1 (Premier League)

January 27 v Manchester City (H) - WON 3-1 (League Cup)

January 23 v Hull City (H) - WON 4-0 (Premier League)

 

TEAM NEWS

Milan

Marco Borriello is out with injury but Alexandre Pato is back. David Beckham might be given the nod ahead of Gennaro Gattuso in the midfield but coach Leonardo might like to go with the Italian given that Beckham could probably struggle against a workman-like United midfield.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dida, Abate, Nesta, Thiago Silva, Favalli; Gattuso, Ambrosini, Pirlo; Pato, Huntelaar, Ronaldinho

Manchester United

Nemanja Vidic, Ryan Giggs and Anderson have been left behind in Manchester as they all are suffering from injury. Rio Ferdinand and Nani are available as their suspensions cover only domestic matches.

Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Van der Sar, Rafael, Brown, Ferdinand, Evra; Fletcher, Scholes, Nani, Carrick, Valencia; Rooney

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ronaldinho (Milan)

Ronaldinho has been on fire for Milan this season and has undergone an almost radical rejuvenation. He has impressive statistics with nine goals and nine assists in 22 matches in Serie A. The former Barcelona playmaker was in great form on Friday too when Milan edged past Udinese 3-2 to remain third in the Serie A table. Ronnie would be Milan's main playmaker on Tuesday night and he would be trying to expose the lack of quality that United have on the wings.

Darren Fletcher (Manchester United)

Detractors would suggest that Darren Fletcher doesn't have much talent and they are right too, but the fact cannot be denied that he has been the best player for Manchester United this campaign. Fletcher had started to show his quality last season and this term he has been brilliant with three goals and three assists in 21 league matches. Against a rather slow Milan midfield that relies heavily on passes and individual tricks, Fletcher's commitment and hard work would be assets for the Red Devils.

 

PREDICTION

It wouldn't be easy for Milan especially as Manchester United would be happy with a draw or a 2-1 defeat. However, Milan do have more quality upfront and with Alexandro Pato retuning from injury against Udinese in fine form, it would be difficult for the United defence not to concede at least two goals.

Milan 3-1 Manchester United