Every Milan fan felt it. A year after encountering Barcelona in the group stage and also in the knockout round, a battle which has become a regularity rears its ugly head once again (to Milan fans, at least).
However, as we've so often seen in football, no team can be shrugged off. A massively favored Barcelona can be taken down, and here are five reasons why.
Even when they were horrendously out of form, AC Milan managed to perform well against a near record-setting Juventus last season. The team drew 1-1 with the Bianconeri and gave Rossoneri fans a sense of hope for a future that looked bleak. They managed to replicate this form by taking Juventus to 120 minutes in the Coppa Italia a month ago, going toe-to-toe with the reigning Italian champions.
Despite the occasional domestic meltdown (a 4-2 drubbing at the hands of Roma), Milan has recently put together a string of impressive performances by going for a more offensive approach, using a three-headed monster up front.
This is perhaps the greatest point of all.
The masterly Lionel Messi only has three goals in eight appearances against Italian sides—all of them penalties.
Before the Messi fanclub comes out with pitchforks, let me reiterate that this is not a bash against him. Rather, it's a comment about the general state of La Liga when compared to Serie A. (More on this in the next slide.)
The central pairing of Alessandro Nesta and Thiago Silva was not the only reason why Barcelona struggled to get their fluid attack swinging on all cylinders. One of the finest matches Milan played last year against the Blaugrana involved the likes of Philippe Mexes and the immortal Luca Antonini, who had perhaps his best game in a red and black kit.
Yes, I know. This hasn't been the most stellar Milan team we've seen. I actually wrote at the beginning of the year that this was the worst Rossoneri squad I have ever seen since watching my first game at the San Siro in 1991.
In their past five Serie A matches, Milan have drawn one and won four. While new signing Mario Balotelli has had a large influence on those results, other pieces of the squad have begun to play better as well, such as the defensive line.
If all else fails, the Rossoneri players can expect to see a packed house at the San Siro on Wednesday.
Could Milan's cathedral play a part in giving them a highly needed psychological advantage against a squad rarely phased by any ground or opposition?
Let's be honest, you'd be a fool to think Milan could pull this one out against a team that has won 21 out of their last 24 La Liga games. Barcelona has an incredible advantage. They did last year, and they certainly do this time around with an improved squad facing a deteriorated Milan.
A few lucky breaks could have been blamed by the most biased of Milan fans last year. They could have argued that the penalty awarded to Barcelona against Alessandro Nesta was farcical. This year, the Rossoneri will need plenty of breaks and perhaps a bit of help from the referees if they want to get by the best team in world football.
Unfortunately, lady luck hasn't gone Milan's way so far, as Stephan El Shaarawy remains doubtful with an injury picked up last week.