Champions League: AC Milan – FC Barcelona preview

Massimiliano Allegri stressed that AC Milan’s round of 16 tie will “start at 0-0” as he went on the offensive to question why they are being written off before facing FC Barcelona.



Irked by talk that FC Barcelona will make light work of his AC Milan team, Massimiliano Allegri came out on the front foot ahead of the sold-out UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg at San Siro, saying: “It annoys me that we are already considered as a sacrificial victim.”

His opposite number Jordi Roura also downplayed suggestions that the Blaugrana, who eliminated Milan in last season’s quarter-finals, are overwhelming favourites. 

Massimiliano Allegri, coach
Over the past two years we have played a few good games against Barcelona. They are the best team in the world and we must try to lay the groundwork for our progress in the tie. We have to limit their time on the ball because in attack they have great players. However, they could concede ground at the back so we need to play with the belief we can go through.

[Lionel] Messi is a player who can make a difference, likewise [Andrés] Iniesta, one of the best creators in the world. Obviously we must look at ways of limiting their effectiveness. We must be calm.

Milan will definitely play a good game. It annoys me that we are already considered as a sacrificial victim. Unless the regulations change before Wednesday, we will start at 0-0 and my team must be convinced they can get through – otherwise there is no point turning up.

Weekend result
Friday: Milan 2-1 Parma FC (Paletta 39og, Balotelli 77; Sansone 90+3)
Abbiati; De Sciglio, Yepes, Zapata, Constant; Nocerino, Montolivo, Muntari; Niang (Traoré 87), Balotelli, Boateng (Bojan 65).

• Mario Balotelli, who is ineligible to play in the UEFA Champions League, notched his fourth goal in three Serie A games since joining from Manchester City FC – a wonderful free-kick. Parma wasted several good opportunities to score, with their late strike too little, too late.

Team news
Giampaolo Pazzini, “one of the architects of Milan’s revival” according to his coach, has shaken off a thigh injury, but Stephan El Shaarawy is a slight doubt with a swollen knee tendon. Midfielders Mathieu Flamini (left thigh) and Antonio Nocerino, who hurt his right thigh in training on Tuesday, miss out. Both players will undergo further tests.  Allegri has already announced his back line: Ignazio Abate, Cristián Zapata, Philippe Mexès and Kévin Constant.

Jordi Roura, assistant coach

This season Milan are different from previous years. To come and play here is a pleasure, in a great stadium and in a fantastic atmosphere. Milan continue to be one of the most prestigious teams in Europe and obviously there is worry about this.

It makes no sense to talk about favourites. I don’t agree with those who say that Barcelona will definitely win. Milan are one of the most successful teams in Europe and San Siro is always a difficult stadium to play in. The atmosphere of the Champions League is fantastic and we are looking forward to this match.

I haven’t decided on the lineup. We’ve conceded a few goals in recent games, but we have also scored quite a lot. However, we have worked to correct our mistakes.

Weekend result
Saturday: Granada CF 1-2 Barcelona (Ighalo 26; Messi 50, 73)
Víctor Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano (Alba 38); Pedro Rodríguez (Iniesta 72), Thiago, Busquets, Fàbregas, Alexis Sánchez (Tello 61); Messi.

• Barcelona conceded for the ninth straight game but – with assistant coach Jordi Roura in temporary command – Lionel Messi registered his 300th and 301st goals for the club while extending his record scoring sequence in the Liga to 14 consecutive matches. The Blaugrana maintained their 12-point lead at the top of the standings.

Team news
Xavi Hernández is fit and available having sat out successive Liga fixtures with a hamstring tear. Full-back Adriano, however, will skip the first leg at San Siro after the Brazilian picked up a hamstring injury at the weekend. David Villa has stayed in Barcelona following two hospital visits caused by a kidney problem last week.

Match fact
These two famous names have squared off 15 times, Barcelona recording six wins to Milan’s four and scoring 22 goals to the Italian side’s 19. Milan’s record in seven home outings against Barcelona reads W2 D2 L3. The clubs’ most high-profile encounter was the 1994 UEFA Champions League final in Athens, Fabio Capello’s Milan prevailing 4-0 with goals from Daniele Massaro (22, 45), Dejan Savićević (47) and Marcel Desailly (58).

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