Lionel Messi is on the brink of yet
another record as title holders and favourites Barcelona visit
AC Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday with the odds
firmly stacked against the injury-hit Serie A team.
Although title-holders Barcelona are unlikely to repeat the
7-1 aggregate win they pulled off in the first meeting of the
two sides in the 1959/60 European Cup, they have looked
unstoppable in the Champions League this season.
Seven-times champions Milan, on the other hand, have been
struggling with injuries in the run-up to the quarter-final
first-leg tie, a repeat of the 1994 final which the Italians won
Pep Guardiola's side have won seven and drawn one of their
eight games, scoring 30 goals at an average of nearly four per
match, and beat Milan 3-2 at the San Siro in the group stage.
They have not lost in their last 14 Champions League games
and are unbeaten in their last five against the Italians.
Messi has scored 18 goals in his last eight Barcelona
matches and a hat-trick for Argentina. His club tally included
the first five-goal haul in the Champions League, against Bayer
He needs one more goal to break the Champions League season
record of 12 goals, set by himself last season and Ruud van
Nistelrooy in 2003, and also notch up his 50th goal of the
Last week, Messi broke the Barcelona scoring record with his
234th goal for the club and his tally of 55 goals this season in
all competitions is already a Spanish record with two months
still to play.
The outlook became bleaker for Milan after Thiago Silva, the
linchpin of their defence, joined Milan's lengthy injured list,
the Brazilian limping off early during the 2-1 win over AS Roma
Right-back Ignazio Abate and Brazilian forwards Robinho and
Alexandre Pato are also sidelined while the Serie A leaders and
defending champions will miss the intimidating presence of Mark van Bommel in midfield as the Dutchman is suspended.
They good news is that Kevin-Prince Boateng, who scored one
of the goals of the competition in Barcelona's 3-2 win in
November, is fit again while Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in
outstanding form in attack.
The volatile Swede, who left Barcelona in acrimonious
circumstances 18 months ago, remains Milan's trump card with 22
goals in Serie A this season and five in the Champions League.
Although Milan have a four-point lead at the top of Serie A,
they have struggled in big matches this season, and were
outplayed in both group-stage meetings against Barcelona,
including the 2-2 draw at Nou Camp.
They have yet to beat Juventus in four attempts, lost 1-0 to
arch-rivals Inter in the Milan derby in January and reached the
quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth after a 3-0 defeat to
Arsenal in the second leg of their last 16 tie.
Milan were criticised for fielding Thiago Silva against Roma
but chief executive Adriano Galliani defended their policy on
"We knew that Thiago Silva had a problem, but he seemed
fine," Galliani told reporters. "Then he got injured and
everyone is talking about it.
"Nobody knew that Zlatan Ibrahimovic played with a bad
back," added Galliani. "If he had not played then maybe we may
not have won. Risks are part of the game.
"As for Barcelona, we will be meeting the holders who are
playing the best football in the world.
"We have not been at all fortunate in the draw but then
neither have Barcelona. Milan have been used to facing these
types of matches for many years and I am pleased when Milan
"Last year we were in the battle for the title with Inter
and this year it is Juventus. The opponents change but we are
always there. Win, lose or draw it is important to stay the top
Guardiola, whose side trail Real Madrid by six points in La
Liga, dismissed Milan's injury problems.
"If we are expecting Milan to play below their usual
standard, then we're wrong," he said after the draw was made.
"The fact that we did well in the group stage doesn't mean we
are going to win this tie."
AC Milan: 32-Christian Abbiati; 25-Daniele Bonera;
5-Philippe Mexes, 33-Alessandro Nesta, 77-Luca Antonini;
22-Antonio Nocerino, 23-Massimo Ambrosini, 27-Kevin-Prince
Boateng, 28-Urby Emanuelson; 11-Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 21-Maxi
Barcelona: 1-Victor Valdes; 2-Dani Alves, 14-Javier
Mascherano, 3-Gerard Pique, 5-Carles Puyol; 6- Xavi, 8-Andres
Iniesta, 16-Sergio Busquets, 4-Cesc Fabregas, 10-Lionel Messi,
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