Tuesday, 19 February 2013

MILAN (AFP) – The veracity
of AC Milan’s resurgence
in Italy’s Serie A is set to
be put to the test when
Barcelona visit the San
Siro Wednesday for the first leg of a last 16 tie in
the Champions League. After their worst ever
start to a league campaign
the Rossoneri have climbed
to third place and within
touch of securing one of
the three Champions League places for next
year. However their survival in
this year’s competition
could depend on a strong
showing in Milan ahead of
a return to the formidable
surroundings of the Nou Camp on March 12. Although billed, by Milan, as
a match between ‘the
best of the world’ — Milan
are seven-time European
champions while Barcelona,
four-time winners, are widely considered the
strongest team in the
world — the Spanish
league leaders have the
bragging rights. The last time the two
sides met, in last season’s
competition, Barcelona
came away from the San
Siro with a scoreless draw
in the first leg of the quarter-final, before
winning 3-1 at home to
secure a semi-final spot. Only four months earlier,
Barcelona emerged from
Milan with a 3-2 win on
their way to topping the
group ahead of Milan, while
in the 2006 semi-finals the Catalans won 1-0 to
virtually secure their place
in the final. Since the recent
acquisition of striker Mario
Balotelli, AC Milan have
continued making up for
their disastrous start to
sit third in the league, 11 points behind leaders
Juventus.Lionel Messi But because he played in
this season’s competition
with Manchester City,
Balotelli is Cup-tied for the
remaining Champions
League fixtures. That paves the way for
the likes of Bojan Krkic,
formerly of Barcelona, to
step up for a game that
will have special emotional
significance as well as being a crucial step in
Milan’s roller-coaster
season. “It is a different game, a
special game for me but I
don’t want to think too
much about what feelings I
have inside, I just want to
concentrate on the game and on the 90 minutes of
football that awaits us,”
Bojan told acmilan.it. “I have never played
against Barcelona before
and for that very reason
this is more than just a
game for me but all I want
to do is help the team.” He added: “We are going
through a positive patch
at the moment, we have
to believe in ourselves. “We have to try and work
hard and go into the
match knowing that we
are playing in the knock-
out stages of the
Champions League, against Barcelona, in one of the
biggest matches in the
world. “This isn’t a three point
match, this is a game over
180 minutes where goals
are all-important. We have
to score and also not
concede. We have to remain focused for the
entire 180 minutes.” Barcelona currently hold a
12-point lead over Atletico
Madrid at the top of La
Liga in Spain but will travel
to Milan without coach Tito
Vilanova as he continues treatment in New York to
help him recover from a
throat cancer operation
he underwent before
Christmas. The reins will remain with
assistant manager Jordi
Roura, who last weekend
had occasion to hail star
forward Lionel Messi as
the Argentine scored a double to take his
Barcelona goals tally to
beyond the mythical 300
mark.

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