The Champions League has been a competition in which some of the top teams in the world play against each other, and it is the most prestigious club tournament in world football. Many great teams have laid their hands on the trophy and consistent success in the tournament is a measure of a team's quality. FC Barcelona have won the trophy twice in the last three years, and this current side could go down as one of the best club teams to have played.
The Blaugrana have always been one of the strongest teams in the world, but under Pep Guardiola they have stepped to another level and built a team which is capable of defeating any team in the world. They have numerous players from their academy, and the Spain national team and the players have an excellent understanding with their teammates.
They will not be too concerned with any Champions League group considering that they are the strongest team currently in world football. They will go up against Italian champions AC Milan for their first game in the European competition, and though they are the favorites, the Italian side possesses the quality to threaten Barcelona.
Under the astute management of Massimiliano Allegri, who was appointed as the manager in the last season, Milan have become a lot stronger and also won the title, beating their rivals Inter Milan. The manager has got out the best from his players, and the side has made some interesting signings like Alberto Aquilani and Philippe Mexes.
Milan are second most successful team in the European competition after Real Madrid, and though they have not had success in the last few Champions League editions, they would believe that they do have the quality to win the Champions League in the near future. AC Milan, under Allegri, have played some good, quality attacking football, but with the Italian champions likely to have lesser possession, it is important that they do the hard work and maintain their organization.
Barcelona, under Guardiola, will be confident going into the game, but they will be aware of the quality of this Milan side and it would be a mistake to underestimate them. The Blaugrana's style of play is predictable, with a lot of passing and possession, but they are the best at it and dominate oppositions. They have immense quality on their side with players like Xavi Hernandez, Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, and if they are at their best, they can win against any team in the world.
Barcelona have also made the big money signings of Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez in the summer. The duo are talents of the highest quality. Guardiola is one of the best managers in the game and that is why he has brought in more depth to the team. In the last season, they did not have great depth on their squad, but this season they have managed to retain all their important players along with signing two excellent young players.
Cesc Fabregas has started quite well for Barcelona, and it was always expected that it should not take him much time to adjust to the club. The former Arsenal captain may be benched, though, considering that Barcelona may choose to play their first choice team, which includes Xavi and Iniesta. Alexis Sanchez has sustained an injury, which will keep him out of the team for sometime. Carles Puyol was on the bench for the game against Sociedad and could start the game against Milan.
Predicted Starting Lineup
Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Javier Mascherano, Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Pedro Rodriguez, David Villa, Lionel Messi
AC Milan have come a long way in the last year under Allegri, and they have got immense belief in their side's capability. The club has made some interesting signings and without spending too much money, they have added quality depth to the squad. They signed Taye Taiwo and Philippe Mexes on free transfers and they will both add more quality to the defense.
Also, they did manage to sign Alberto Aquilani on a loan deal from Liverpool and though the Italian had a disappointing time with the Reds, he is a player who has the quality to play at the highest level. Milan have a difficult task on their hands, but they do have the experience and the knowledge to beat high-quality teams.
It will be a difficult game for Milan, and with Barcelona having the home advantage, they are the favorites going into the game. However, that will also work to Milan's advantage as they will play without fear, and if they can find their best game, they can cause plenty of problems for the Spanish champions. However, Allegri will have to take a depleted squad to the Nou Camp due to the injuries to Ibrahimovic and Robinho but will hope for a positive result in their first game of the 2011-12 Champions League.
Predicted Starting Line-up
Christian Abbiati, Thiago Silva, Alessandro Nesta, Luca Antonini, Ignazio Abate, Mark Van Bommel, Gennaro Gattuso, Massimo Ambrosini, Alberto Aquilani, Antonio Cassano, Pato
Predictions for the Game
Though Milan are a strong team, Barcelona are likely to play their first choice team and could dominate the game for long periods. With Ibrahimovic and Robinho missing in the AC Milan side, it could be difficult for Milan to threaten the Barcelona side. Barcelona have the quality of Xavi, Messi and others and at the Nou Camp, they will not be happy with anything other than a victory.
FC Barcelona 3, AC Milan 1