Barcelona assistant coach Jordi Roura has said that his side needs to play the perfect match in order to overturn a 2-0 deficit against Milan and make it to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari struck at the San Siro to stun the then favorites for the competition, and the fact that they managed to avoid the concession of an away goal puts the Italian giants in an unexpectedly strong position.
Only four times in the Champions League era has a side come back from a two goal first-leg deficit—intriguingly, Barcelona are one of the teams to complete the task, while Milan were victims of the greatest turnaround, losing a three-goal advantage to Deportivo La Coruna.
“The perfect match will be the one that ends well and takes us to the quarter-finals,” Roura said, according to UEFA’s official Web site. “We have to find the right balance between intensity, strength and haste. This match will last 90 minutes so we have to keep our heads and keep our cool, not lose control of the match.”
Barcelona’s results failed to improve after the defeat in Italy as they suffered back-to-back losses to fierce rivals Real Madrid. They did, though, pick up a victory and keep a first clean sheet in 12 matches against Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
Perhaps the biggest boost for Barcelona is the return to fitness after a hamstring injury of Xavi. The playmaker was only given the all clear at lunchtime ahead of the game and leaves Tito Vilanova with a full squad from which to pick.
The Barcelona coach may make changes to his side form the first leg to try and provide a greater attacking threat and more width. Cesc Fabregas could be the man to be sacrificed, with Andres Iniesta dropping back into the midfield and Alexis Sanchez—who finally showed some form with a goal and assist against Depor—coming into the attack.
The result against Barcelona continued Milan’s fine renaissance since the winter break. Massimiliano Allegri’s side have now gone 10 games without defeat in all competitions and, after a terrible start to the campaign, find themselves in third place in Serie A.
With a squad that has seen a dramatic overhaul since last season, Allegri is taking a pragmatic approach to the second-leg, even with his side’s strong position.
“Everyone knows how important the match is tomorrow,” he said. “However, the process of building a team that started in August will not stop if we lose to the greatest team in the world. This team has young players with no international experience, so we need confidence and serenity tomorrow.
“Barcelona always force their opponents to play the same way because of their ball possession. If we can keep Barcelona away from our box, then we have a better chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals.”
Milan’s 2-0 win at Genoa on Friday did not come without cost as scorer of the opening goal Giampaolo Pazzini was forced off with a bruised right leg and will miss the match in Camp Nou. Defender Philippe Mexes was also forced off against Genoa with a thigh injury, although he is expected to make the starting lineup on Tuesday.
Mario Balotelli is again cup-tied, meaning Milan could start with 18-year-old M’Baye Niang alongside the equally pacey and energetic duo of Boateng and Stephan El Shaarawy, who were so impressive in the first leg.
D: Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba
M: Xavi, Bisquets, Iniesta
F: Pedro, Messi, Sanchez
D: Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Constant
M: Montolivo, Ambrosini, Muntaru
F: Boateng, Niang, El Shaarawy
Barcelona are strong favorites, at 1/3, to get the victory on the night, with Paddy Power. Milan are big outsiders at 8/1, with a draw priced at 4/1.
To make it through to the quarterfinals, though, Milan are 8/13 favorites, with Barcelona 6/5.
You can find our detailed analysis and prediction here.
Where to watch: The second leg of the UEFA Champions League last-16 tie will kick-off from Camp Nou at 3.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the FOX Soccer Channel, with a live stream available via Fox Soccer 2Go.