Champions League Round of 16 • Arsenal vs. Milan Preview: London Calling

Some might consider our trip to London a formality. Even Arsene Wenger himself has said that it is almost impossible for Arsenal to come back from a 4-0 deficit. But there is a chance. There is always a chance that Arsenal could score 5 goals and keep a clean sheet. And even though it is probably only one small chance in hell, the game needs to be played on such a chance. So Milan cannot march into the Emirates Stadium without a care, there is still 90 minutes left to battle, and it is a battle I hope we win.

It’s not as if it hasn’t been done before, though – overcoming a 4 goal first leg deficit to progress in UEFA competition. Real Madrid did it in the 1985-86 UEFA Cup third round, Leixoes SC did it in the UEFA Cup Winners Cup first round, and FK Partizan also did it in the 1984-85 UEFA Cup second round. But if Milan score even one away goal, it will likely be the final nail in the coffin for Arsenal, as in all three of these situation, the teams started with at least one away goal to help them out. Truly, it would be a dream for Milan to move on to the next round.

After watching Milan play on Saturday, I would say that they will not be taking any chances. Arsenal’s defense will have their hands full, while their offense will just be trying to score at all costs. I have a feeling that it will be a fairly open game, with plenty of chances from both sides.

Way too familiar a sight

Both sides are feeling the sting of injuries. But in addition to missing key players like Aaron Ramsey, who is still out with an ankle injury, Wenger potentially lost 4 more players in their clash with Liverpool on Saturday: Arteta, Diaby, Beayoun, and Gibbs are all now unlikely for Tuesday’s clash due to injuries received in the Liverpool match. This led Wenger to joke, “Maybe I will play with six strikers, as we have to score goals!” Hmmmm… it must be nice to have six healthy strikers, Mr. Wenger.

Needless to say Arsenal’s biggest challenge is also in the midfield, so  some player may play out of position. But if he goes with his typical 4-2-3-1, we might see a lineup like this: Szczsny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelan, Santos; Rosicky, Gervinho; Song, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott; Van Persie. If Szczsny maintains the form he showed Saturday, it will be very difficult to score, and if van Persie also duplicates his form, it will also be difficult to shut them out.

This would be a welcome sight

Meanwhile, Milan have the usual half of a club injury list. Aquilani has been back in training and is rumored to play. Likewise, there is a possibility that Flamini may get some time, as he played with the Primavera team on Saturday for match fitness. Urby hurt his ankle Saturday, and a decision will be made today as to whether or not he travels to London. Ambrosini will be serving a one match suspension for card accumulation, so van Bommel will need to play carefully, as he is one yellow away from suspension, too.

Boateng is still not match fit, he will likely return in the next match or two, and I have not heard of Nesta being fit, either. Seedorf is still out as well, along with Merkel. Our midfield will be incredibly thin, and I would expect if Aquilani plays, he’ll come off the bench. Pato’s injury was reaggravated, and Maxi Lopez is also still injured.

Most likely, it will be something like Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Silva, Mesbah (or Antonini if he is fit after his muscle issues on Saturday;) Nocerino, van Bommel, Urby, El Shaarawy; and Robinho and Ibra up front. Of course, this is all pending injury issues, and that may not be known until the last minute.

If we pull this one off, Allegri deserves to take a bow.

Critics said that we won by such a large margin in the first leg because of how poorly Arsenal played. And while they certainly did not play well, Milan played quite the opposite. But if you watched us play at Palermo on Saturday, we played even better. So if we bring that game to Emirates Stadium, it will take a pretty incredible performance by the ref or by Arsenal to deny us our spot in the Quarterfinals. Our boys are focused and ready, and will give it their best to progress to the next round. But for now, I think I hear London Calling.

Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg
Arsenal vs. Milan
Tuesday, March 6 • 20:45 CET (2:45 EST)
This match will be shown on FSC in the U.S.

This post inspired by the music of the Clash

Champions League Round of 16 • Arsenal vs. Milan Preview: London Calling Champions League Round of 16 • Arsenal vs. Milan Preview: London Calling Reviewed by Elaine on 12:44 AM Rating: 5
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