WHO: Barcelona vs. Milan
WHAT: Champions League Group Stage Fixture
WHERE: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain.
WHEN: Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET/7.45 p.m. GMT.
WHY: Because the footballing gods are smiling down on us.
Milan have looked like a completely different side in Europe compared to their atrocious domestic campaign. The last time they started out so poorly in Serie A was back in 1981, when they ended up being relegated to Serie B.
A different story has unfolded in Europe, though. Milan had arguably their best game of the season against Barcelona in the first round at the San Siro. They defended well and ended up taking a point from the Spanish giants.
It will be a lot harder to repeat a positive performance at the Camp Nou, as the Italians were shellacked there last season after getting a false sense of security following an impressive 2-0 win in the first leg.
There are plenty of tactical battles that will shape Barcelona's clash with Milan, the first being how well Milan's defense copes with the attacking duo of Lionel Messi and Neymar. The Brazilian was held under wraps for a majority of the first match, while a defensive breakdown led to Messi's lone goal in the contest.
This time around, expect the promising youngster Mattia De Sciglio to get the nod at left-back over the maligned Kevin Constant, who simply isn't equipped to handle a game of this magnitude. De Sciglio is a much more tactically disciplined player on the defensive end, despite his young age, and should be a better option defending Messi on the flank.
Other than that, Philippe Mexes is expected to start next to Christian Zapata in the middle of the defense, while Ignazio Abate takes the right wing where his blistering pace will be a needed attribute against the pesky Barcelona attack.
In the middle of the park, Nigel De Jong will have his hands full containing any one of the Blaugrana playmakers who love to swing the ball in their famous tiki-taka play style.
The other two midfielders should be Riccardo Montolivo and Sulley Muntari, both of whom will undoubtedly be spending much more time on the defensive end rather than making runs forward. As usual, expect Barcelona to hold a majority of the possession and dictate the flow of the game.
Milan's attack will most likely see very few chances, most of them being counterattacks after a Barcelona slip up.
Not only do they both have experience and the know-how of what's required to play at this level, but they know each other really well from playing together for Brazil, and the chemistry is evident on the pitch.
For a team that has been so poor in Serie A, it'll be interesting to see how the Rossoneri can change their tactics after yet another defeat over the weekend to Fiorentina.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri's hot seat has ignited into a fireball and this match could have dramatic implications.
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