San Siro, Milan
22 October, 19:45 BST
AC Milan host FC Barcelona at San Siro for the second time this year and for the fourth time since 2011. Barcelona currently lead the points table of group H, with AC Milan in second place. A win for either side will take them one step closer to qualification for the knockout stage.
AC Milan have won only one of their last six meetings against the Spanish giants – the 2-0 victory in the round of 16 last season. But at San Siro both these European heavy weights with massive history, share a more even record. Both the sides have won twice in the last six meetings at this ground, with Barcelona’s last win coming back in 2011 when Xavi scored the winner against a 10-men AC Milan after Alberto Aquilani was sent off in the first half.
While Barcelona come into this game as the favorites, it will be preposterous to rule out AC Milan from this game. The Italian side have a history of performing in this tournament when they are least expected to – even Johan Cruyff would nod in approval.
Team news and tactics
AC Milan haven’t made the brightest of start to their campaign this season. They are currently 8th in the League table having won just three of their opening eight matches. The side has been badly affected by injuries and Massimiliano Allegri will find it hard to compete with the likes of Roma, Napoli and Juventus with this squad.
Milan have made a decent start to their Champions League campaign with a 2-0 victory over Celtic and followed that with a 1-1 draw against Ajax. The Dutch side took the lead late on the game with a goal from Stefano Denswil, but Mario Balotelli equalised for Milan with a penalty with virtually the last kick of the game.
Milan are coming into this game on the back of hard fought victory against Udinese. Valter Birsa’s first half strike was the only goal in the game as Milan managed to hold off the away side. That win would have boosted a lot of confidence into the side.
Massimiliano Allegri faces a lot of injury problems ahead of this game. Daniele Bonera, Giampaolo Pazzini, Mario Balotelli, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio are all out of contention for this game. Experienced goalkeeper Christian Abbiati is also injured and was replaced by Gabriel in the match against Udinese, but the 21-year-old is not present in the Champions League squad and will be replaced by Marco Amelia in goal. M’Baye Niang and Riccardo Saponara are also ineligible for this game.
Allegri is expected to make three changes to the side that was fielded against Udinese. Mexes will replace Matias Silvestre in the center of defence, while Nigel de Jong will replace Andrea Poli in the midfield as Allegri looks to add more steel for this game. Kaka has recovered fully, but Birsa will retain his place after scoring the winner in the last game.
Expected starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Amelia (GK); Abate, Zapate, Mexes, Constant; Montolivo, de Jong, Muntari; Robinho, Matri, Birsa
On contrary to AC Milan, Barcelona have made a flying start to their campaign under new manager Gerardo Martino. Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga points table having made an unbeaten start. Their last defeat came at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Gerardo Martino has seemingly provided a new zest to this side and they are rightly considered one of the favourites to lift the Champions League this season.
Barcelona have won their opening two matches in the group stage with victories against Ajax and Celtic. It was a hard fought win for Barcelona in their last game as they failed to break down a organised Celtic defence for 75 minutes and the goal came only after Celtic were reduced to 10-men following Scott Brown’s dismissal.
Barcelona are coming into this match on the back of a 0-0 draw against Osasuna in the league. Despite having 76% possession that match, the Catalan side managed to have only three shots on target – something which might worry Gerardo Martino ahead of this game.
Unlike Allegri, Gerardo Martino doesn’t have any major injury concern ahead of this match. Jordi Alba and Ibrahim Afellay are the only injured players, while the side has been boosted by the return of Carles Puyol last weekend.
Barcelona are expected to make five changes to the side that was fielded against Osasuna for this game. Alves and Pique will return to the defence after being rested in the last game, which means Montoya and Bartra will drop back to the bench. In attack the front three of Neymar, Fabregas and Pedro, who failed to score, will be replaced. Messi and Sanchez will return to the starting line-up, while Neymar is likely to retain his place.
Expected starting line-up (4-3-3): Valdes (GK); Alves, Pique, Puyol, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Neymar, Sanchez
Player to watch out for: Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan); Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Prediction: AC Milan 1-2 Barcelona