Milan aiming to break awful streak against English sides
MILAN - Reuters
The Champions League match between Arsenal and Milan will bring two great strikers, Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, face-to-face. Henry and Ibrahimovic were teammates in the 2009 to 2010 season, when they were both playing for Barcelona.AC Milan will be aiming to beat an English side for the first time in five years when it hosts unpredictable Arsenal in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg tonight.
Milan, who lifted the European Cup for the seventh time by defeating Liverpool 2-1 in Athens in 2007, has since been eliminated from the Champions League by Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur and could only draw with Portsmouth in the group stage of the Europa League in 2009.
The team now faces Arsene Wenger’s erratic team again, the Londoners having knocked Milan out in the last 16 in 2008.
Serie A leaders welcome striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic back from a domestic ban to boost their chances after they ended a bad patch with last week’s late 2-1 win at Italian title rivals Udinese.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri has several injury problems but the treatment room is beginning to clear out with goalkeeper Christian Abbiati and center half Alessandro Nesta hoping to be back to face Arsenal, who has won on both of its previous Champions League visits against Milan at the San Siro.
Defending champion Milan tops Serie A by two points but Juventus in second have two games in hand.
“It meant a lot to win at Udine, we’d just come off three defeats in five games,” coach Allegri told reporters.
“That win has given us balance and serenity. This is the sprit of the guys, we have to move forward like this.”
Milan, who qualified along with holders Barcelona from the group stage, has struggled in the competition since its last triumph in 2007.
Milan has also not won any of its last seven matches against English clubs and has failed to score in five of those games.
The key to tonight’s game is what tactics Wenger employs and whether he plays safe for a draw or attempts to go for a third straight win against Milan in their own backyard.
Wenger could be wary of Milan’s attacking prowess and play it cautiously but their Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey believes away goals could prove critical in this tie.
He told Arsenal TV Online: “If we can go there and get a few goals and then come back to the Emirates then that’s going to be a fantastic result for us.”
Arsenal’s fortunes have revived since French striker Thierry Henry rejoined the club on loan from New York Red Bulls, and if he does play any part tonight, it is likely to be his final appeareance in an Arsenal shirt.
He is due to return to New York tomorrow after scoring three goals in six appearances to take his all-time record for Arsenal to 229 goals. He scored twice at the San Siro against Inter Milan when Arsenal won 5-1 there in the Champions League in 2003.
“I’ve not thought it,” he said. “I just want to help Arsenal on the night. I am an Arsenal player for one more game. Milan is Milan. It is another type of game and it is never easy to win away in the Champions League.”
Arsenal will be without center back Per Mertesacker for the game after the German pulled up with an ankle injury in last week’s comeback 2-1 win at Sunderland.