AC Milan vs. Barcelona: 5 Bold Predictions for Champions League Tie
Making bold predictions for the upcoming Champions League tie between AC Milan and Barcelona would have been much easier if Mario Balotelli wasn't cup-tied.
However, due to his involvement with Manchester City in the group stages he will not be able to participate in this season's competition moving forward.
Two of Europe's biggest clubs, they've become reacquainted recently having met four times in the competition last season.
La Blaugrana got the better of their Italian rivals, winning twice and drawing twice as they passed through the groups together before Barca halted Milan in the quarterfinal.
With the rivalry set to resume this month, here are some predictions for the San Siro...
Bojan Scores Against His Former Club
You make your Barcelona debut at 17 years and 19 days old and people are going to talk about you.
Unfortunately for Bojan Krkic his career hasn't developed into the phenomenon all that talk nearly six years ago suggested.
Yet he is still just 22, made over 100 appearances for Barcelona and is halfway through his second season in Italy—the first with Roma, the current with Milan.
And although not a frequent starter in Massimilano Allegri's team, the Milan boss would do well to consider one of football's unwritten rules when La Blaugrana fly into town this month:
A player will always score against his former club however bad he is currently performing.
With that in mind, don't be surprised to see Bojan appear from the bench on February 20 to score against his former colleague Victor Valdes.
Thiago Alcantara Completes the Most Passes
Tired legs since the turn of the year have not yielded the rotation you might expect from Barcelona who prefer to maintain the same, predictable line up.
News of Xavi's injury though means that Jordi Roura will be forced into making at least one change this weekend at home to Getafe.
The obvious like-for-like Xavi replacement is Thiago Alcantara.
Xavi should be fit again for the trip to Italy, but with that game against Getafe followed by a trip to Granada there is no reason why Thiago can't play himself into contention in the meantime.
If his form proves too good to be dropped or Xavi doesn't recover, then the 21-year-old is primed to have the big game his ability has been threatening for a while.
Philippe Mexes Gets Booked
Six yellow cards in 14 Serie A appearances is prolific by any players standards.
Chuck in a further three in just four Champions League matches and Philippe Mexes is averaging exactly one yellow card every other game.
On February 20, it is likely the 30-year-old will be tasked with dealing with Barca's interchangeable front four of Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodriguez, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
For a French international with a wealth of experience it is likely that Mexes knows sometimes you just have to admit defeat and take a yellow card.
With 90 minutes of defending against Barcelona in the San Siro you have to expect there will be at least one occasion when Mexes will have to take one for the team.
Pedro Rodriguez Scores the First Goal
Pedro Rodriguez has rediscovered his goalscoring touch in 2013 and although he was never a scorer of lots of goals, he's always been a scorer of important goals.
In the 2009-10 season he scored the winner in the Supercup against Athletic Bilbao, an extra time winner against Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Super Cup and a goal in the semifinal of the World Club Cup against Atlante FC.
That last goal meant he became the only player to score in six club competitions in one season.
He has also scored in El Clasico, the Champions League final and has registered nine times for Spain during 23 appearances.
While Milan may be focused on Leo Messi and Andres Iniesta, expect Pedro to open the scoring.
AC Milan Don't Lose
Last season's two games at the San Siro were contrasting affairs.
In the group stages AC Milan twice came from behind to level things at 2-2 before Xavi Hernandez added a third as Barcelona took the three points.
The knockout tie at the San Siro was—like the upcoming fixture will be—the first leg and ended 0-0 in a match which saw Barca moaning about the pitch.
La Blaugrana will see their foray into Italy as more important not to lose than to necessarily win, backing themselves to complete the job at Camp Nou in March.
And, although Mario Balotelli is unavailable, his signing seems to have given Los Rossoneri a lift while they will know a result at home is imperative if they are to stand a chance of progress.