What: Champions League – Quarter-final first leg
Who: AC Milan vs Barcelona
When: Wednesday 28th March, 2012, at 19:45 UK time
Where: San Siro, Milan, Italy

“Strongest Side in the World”

A Champions League classic, AC Milan versus Barcelona is without a doubt the most exciting tie in this edition’s quarter-finals. Having already met earlier this season in the group stages, the Rossoneri will be hoping for better luck this time around in order to surpass the Blaugrana. Should they be able to so, then their stock would skyrocket as competition favourites.

Beating Barcelona once is a hard task, let alone knocking the Catalans out over a two-legged encounter, and Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini believes that his side are facing the best team on the globe.

“Barcelona are the strongest side in the world, it does not take a magician to tell you that”, said Ambrosini. “It will be a very important and difficult match for us, but also one that will give us so much motivation. The Blaugrana have so many good players at their disposal that we have to give our best.”

A blow for Milan is the news that influential Brazilian defender Thiago Silva will miss both legs of this clash through injury and this has simply added to a list of sidelined stars including Alexandre Pato and possibly Mark van Bommel.

Floating Confidence

It was at the San Siro a few weeks ago that Milan demolished English Premier League side Arsenal 4-0. However, such a fate will surely not be laid upon Barcelona, who approach this clash with sky-high confidence, having slashed a ten-point league difference with Real Madrid to just six.
And with Lionel Messi being the talk of the globe at the moment, Barcelona fancy their chances of coming home with the win. After all, the Blaugrana did manage to do just that back when the two teams met on 23rd November, triumphing 3-2.

With Eric Abidal and Adriano on the sidelines, as well as Dani Alves being suspended against Real Mallorca at the weekend, Josep Guardiola deployed the 3-4-3 once again, and was successful as his team emerged 2-0 victors. Employed in the centre of defence, Javier Mascherano was satisfied with the way his team performed against the Islanders, but instantly switched his focus to the Rossoneri.

“I feel great playing in the backline, even though my position on the right-hand side is a bit strange for me. But we did a good job and our defence was great. It was a difficult match but starting tomorrow, we have to start thinking about AC Milan”, concluded the Argentina international.

Recent form

AC Milan:
Parma 0-2 AC Milan (17/03; Serie A)
Juventus 2-2 AC Milan (20/03; Coppa Italia)
AC Milan 2-1 Roma (24/03; Serie A)

Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona (17/03; La Liga)
Barcelona 5-3 Granada (20/03; La Liga)
Real Mallorca 0-2 Barcelona (24/03; La Liga)

Key absences

AC Milan: Filippo Inzaghi; Thiago Silva; Ignazio Abate; Alexandre Pato; Alexander Merkel; Rodney Strasser; Mathieu Flamini; Antonio Cassano; Mark van Bommel (doubt); Alberto Aquilani

Barcelona: Adriano; Eric Abidal; Andreu Fontas; David Villa; Ibrahim Afellay

Players to watch

AC Milan – Zlatan Ibrahimovic: It is nights like these that decide whether the Swede is amongst the game’s greats, as he is continually accused of being a big-game flop. Meeting his old side never comes without controversy, and Ibrahimovic has the chance to blast back at Barcelona for discarding him.

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: His 235 goals for Barcelona have made him the club’s highest official scorer, while his 35 goals so far this league season has seen him break the record for the most strikes, set by the Brazilian Ronaldo in 1994, ironically with Barcelona themselves. Is Messi the best ever? He can take another step towards proving so here. 

Match Prediction

Given Milan’s lengthy injury list and Barcelona’s current form, the Blaugrana will be very hard to deal with for the Italians here. Messi is on a roll at the moment, and with no Thiago Silva, the hosts have a perforated defence. An early goal might swing things in their favour, but winning this one will be difficult. AC Milan 1-2 Barcelona.

This AC Milan v Barcelona clash is when the Champions League gets serious. But who will win? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.