Although both Milan and Barcelona have booked their tickets to the Round of 16, the first place spot in Group H is still in contention, even if Barcelona still clutch it in their tiny Catalonian hands. Barcelona may be defending their title, but Milan are hungry to take it from them, which makes our boys all the more dangerous.
|"It's mine now, Shorty!"|
Last time around, both teams came into the match with draws in their respective leagues, even if Barcelona’s was a bit more humbling. In similar fashion, Milan, the home team this time around, drew to Fiorentina on Saturday. But Barcelona beat Real Zaragoza convincingly 4-0 on Saturday. However, the Champions League is not anything like a league match, unless you count playing for 90 minutes with teams of 11 and goals and such. If anything, Saturday’s results give Milan the edge in that we will be even hungrier to post a win. Hungry, too, to come back from the draw with BATE Borisov. Combine that hunger with home stadium advantage, and I really do believe that Milan just may pull it off, or at least manage a draw that will feel like a win once again.
Pep Guardiola’s side are coming to Milan with a nearly full strength squad Injuries to Affelay, Pedro, and Adriano will have them missing, but otherwise expect to see the other annoying and vertically challenged European champions ready to play. With a starting lineup of Valdes, Piqué, Puyol, Maxwell, Alves, Keita, Xavi, Sanchez, Cuenca, Messi, and Fabregas on Saturday, Guardiola also had players like Iniesta, David Villa, and Mascherano on the bench. Certainly after drawing with Milan in September, he will field his best 11 for this match.
|Messi has some sort of pelvic exam from keeper Roberto prior to our matchup|
Meanwhile, Milan have just welcomed back Pato, and have an Ibra that will hopefully make it through training sessions without injury before Wednesday. You know that Pippo would love to take on Valdes and show him some lethal finishes, but maybe later on in the coming rounds. Missing Cassano will hurt up front, but missing him from the squad will likely also serve as inspiration to get the goals. Robinho certainly will do his part, and we have some promising young players who may even be called up by Allegri.
Our midfield has been troublesome. But with Boateng having served his league suspensions, he will bring back the needed energy and enthusiasm that has lacked in our supporting attack. I would assume Allegri will go with Aquilani, Boateng, Nocerino, and van Bommel if he is fit or possibly Ambrosini. I would love to see Gattuso take on our tiny Spanish friends, but his return to training will have to be enough for now. On defense, it should be Abbiati in goal, then new papa Abate, Thiago Silva, Nesta, and either Zambrotta or Taiwo on the left.
|Don't mess with them. It's a Milan thing.|
Barcelona currently lead Group H on ten points, while Milan have 8 points. If Milan can pull off the win, we will leapfrog them to top of the group. Then a win at Plzen will see us seeded first when it is time for the Group of 16, which should give us an easier opponent. And Barcelona are of course looking to do the same. It’s a small advantage meant to help the best teams get through to the Champions League final in May. Which is the primary goal of Allegri and our boys this year, so this game is definitely important.
While it is unlikely we will see a repeat of the excitement of the first leg of this matchup, with Brazilian bookend goals from Pato and Silva in the first and last minutes, I expect an epic battle, even if Allegri parks the best bus he can find and defends for the majority of the match. Barcelona may be learning not to take winning for granted in La Liga this season, currently in 2nd in the table behind Real Madrid, but Milan need to serve them some Champions League humble pie and show them that the Champions League trophy is definitely up for grabs. Let’s send them home with their little tails between their legs and take top spot in Group H, for those who can’t play in this match, whether if be injury or otherwise. Forza Milan!
Milan vs. Barcelona will be Wed., Nov. 23rd at 20:45 CET (2:45pm EST)
and will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel in the USA
This post inspired by the music of the Chemical Brothers