AC Milan boss, Massimo Allegri, insists his team will give a good account of themselves in their Champions League clash with competition favourites, Barcelona.
The coach of the Italian giants reacted spikily to suggestions from reporters that AC Milan were just making up the numbers when questioned at his pre-match press conference.
After a summer of rebuilding, where many of the old guard were packed off to pastures new, and a rather underwhelming beginning to the Serie A season, the seven times winners have crept into the top four of their domestic championship. They also squeezed through their group stage with a meagre seven points and seven goals scored when finishing runners-up to Malaga.
Fully aware of the task ahead, Allegri said “We are facing the best team in the world but I do not accept that everyone is making us out to be the sacrificial lamb”.
Despite his bravado, Allegri and his players must be careful not to be overawed with the opposition at hand. Barcelona and their legion of superstars roll into the San Siro on Wednesday with an excellent recent record against their hosts. In four Champions League meetings last season, the Catalans recorded two wins and two draws in the group stages and quarter-finals where they ultimately eliminated the Rossoneri.
The tournament favourites have also been in their customary scintillating form this year, having sailed through their group stage despite their surprise loss to Celtic, and find themselves well clear at the top of La Liga.
Allegri is also prepared for the tactical battle needed to stifle Barcelona’s creativity, “In the last two years we have played well against Barcelona… We have to try and limit their possession, making them less dangerous when they go forward”.
The obvious key to success for Milan will how they deal with Argentinian genius, Lionel Messi. The record-breaking forward scored his 300th and 301st goals for Barca in the weekend victory over Granada. The Italians may revert to type and employ robust man-to-man marking to counteract the threat posed by the four-time Ballon D’Or winner.
At some stage in Wednesday’s game they must also give the Spanish side something to think about in their own half, however their attacking options are limited by the absence of recent signing, Mario Balotelli. The controversial striker is unavailable due to his participation for Manchester City in the group stages.
AC Milan: Abbiati, Zapata, Mexes, De Sciglio, Montolivo, Ambrosini, Nocerino, Boateng, Pazzini, El-Shaarawy
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba, Fabresgas, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi