Real Madrid and El Clasico looms large on the horizon, but Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino is adamant that his side will not be taking their eye off the ball against Milan on Tuesday. Their bitter rivals await on Saturday, but Barcelona have also built up quite the rivalry with Milan in recent years. Indeed, the two sides will be meeting for the seventh time in just over two years in the Champions League and Martino is not taking the Italian giants lightly.
“Barca have an exam every three or four days,” he said, according to Barcelona’s official website. “I’ve felt responsible in every match that I’ve managed. Like always, I’ll have to send out a team that play well and win. This Tuesday we’re going to face a great institution and we can’t belittle it. In no way do we think this will be an easy match. On the contrary, it will be very difficult.”
Barcelona come into the game with maximum points from their first two matches in this season’s competition and know that a victory will all-but seal their progress into the knockout stage once more. However, the Catalans come lost their perfect record in La Liga on Saturday, when they were held to a goalless draw at Osasuna. That match saw the return of Carles Puyol from a long layoff and he is set to be joined in the starting lineup by Gerard Pique at the San Siro. Lionel Messi is also poised to return to the starting lineup.
Milan’s form has been far more patchy, with a narrow win over Udinese at the weekend, being only their third in Serie A. Things are looking brighter in the Champions League, courtesy of an injury-time penalty by Mario Balotelli last time out against Ajax to give them four points from two matches. The maverick striker has not played for Milan since that game because of injury, but could be back in the side on Tuesday.
Milan have shown that they can trouble Barcelona in recent times, notably having recorded a shock 2-0 first-leg win in the teams’ last-16 tie last season. Unsurprisingly, manager Massimilliano Allegro is keen for his team to repeat that performance.
“We need to play with courage and sacrifice against the best team in the world to get three points and increase our chances of qualifying,” he said, according to UEFA.com. “We must try to make as few mistakes as possible. Barcelona will have the ball more than us, so we have to play a game similar to last year's home tie.”
Where to watch: The Champions League Group H match will kick-off at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 1, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.