Champions’ League last-16 preview: Milan vs Barcelona
By a twist of fate Milan have to withstand arguably the most terrifying challenge in European football as they meet mighty Barcelona at San Siro. The Italian giants will try to give a fine account of themselves against the Blaugrana, who are pursuing their third Champions League title in five years. The Rossoneri have lost two and drawn another 2 out of their last 4 games against Barca in Champions’ League.
Milan recent form:
The Rossoneri are currently experiencing the rebuilding process triggered by the club’s hierarchy. They parted ways with several key players and rely heavily on young talents. The arrival of Balotelli, who seems to be thriving in his new club, complies with the new policy.
Despite being on an impressive run of seven games without losing, it is unlikely that AC Milan are capable to challenge Serie A title as they are 11 points behind the leaders Juventus and 7 points behind second-placed Napoli. Lazio Inter and Fiorentina are set to deliver a fight for the third Serie A spot. Milan managed to secure a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Parma, but it was a tough one and could go either way.
Milan team news:
Unfortunately the Italian giants will miss their talismanic forward Mario Balotelli who is ineligible due to being cup-tied. The Italians hope that their young star El Shaarawy is fit and healthy (he will be assessed ahead of the game) and continues his impressive goal-scoring form to break Barca hearts (although it was Balotelli who managed to score 4 of 5 Milan recent goals).
Milan are having serious defensive problems with duo Mexes-Zapata, who have replaced Nesta and Thiago Silva, being unable to guarantee a solid-rock at the back.
Nigel de Jong is set to miss the clash due to ankle injury, while Robinho (knee) and Daniele Bonera (thigh) remain major doubts.
Barcelona recent form:
Barcelona is topping La Liga table with 53 points, 12 points ahead of their closest rivals Atletico Madrid and 16 points ahead of defending champions Real Madrid. With La Liga title all but in their bag, the Catalans are pursuing the treble this season however they will have to bend every effort to overcome Real Madrid in Copa del Rey semi-finals and Milan in Champions League last-16 round.
Barcelona have managed to come from behind to beat Granada 2-1 in their last La Liga game, with Leo Messi scoring both goals.
Barca have secured the victory in 8 of their last 11 Champions’ League away games and have set their sights on reaching quarter-finals for the sixth successive time.
Despite the tough schedule (Barca have two encounters against Real Madrid – both in Copa del Rey and La Liga followed by the Champions’ League tie with Milan) the Blaugrana are likely to pass the difficult Rossoneri test with flying colours.
Barcelona team news:
Barca have been given a huge boost with the news that their playmaker Xavi has fully recovered from his hamstring problems and is ready to pull the strings in the midfield.
Abidal and Villa will definitely miss the clash due to illness, while Adriano is put on the sidelines with a thigh problem.
Footballtop.com prediction: Milan 1-1 Barcelona
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