Arsenal vs. AC Milan: 5 Reasons the Gunners Can Win
Milan possess a deeply talented and experienced squad and are more fancied in this season's competition than the Gunners.
But Arsenal still have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about upsetting their more illustrious and seasoned opponents.
Here are five reasons why Arsenal can get past the Rossoneri and book safe passage to the quarter-finals.
5. Excellent Record Against Italian Opposition
Arsene Wenger's teams have never lost to Italian opponents in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Recent scalps include defeating AS Roma in the second round of the 2008-09 campaign. The Gunners held their nerve and edged a thrilling penalty shoot out at the Olimpico.
The season before saw Arsenal defeat then holders AC Milan 2-0 on aggregate. Qualification was assured thanks to a stunning victory at the San Siro.
In their march to the final of 2006, Arsenal saw off Turin giants Juventus by the same 2-0 score at the quarter final stage.
Wenger's quick tempo, attacking mentality has often caught the usually cautious Serie A teams cold, particularly when the Gunners have had the home advantage.
If Wenger's daring philosophy can yield a vital away goal, then Arsenal can use the home leg to build a commanding advantage.
4. Success at the San Siro
Arsenal need not be intimidated by the hostile confines of the San Siro stadium. Arsenal have experienced plenty of success at the daunting home of the Rossoneri.
The North London outfit famously became the first English side to win at the San Siro when they trounced Inter Milan 5-1 in October, 2003.
The last time Arsenal took on AC Milan on Italian soil, an accomplished team performance yielded goals from Cesc Fabregas and Emmanuel Adebayor and a superb 2-0 victory.
Arsenal have twice made history at the San Siro and if they can produce a similar feat in the first leg, the Gunners can be expected to safely qualify.
3. The Return of Jack Wilshere
Jack Wilshere's most recent scheduled return date from injury is early to mid February. If so, then the Gunners may be able to call on the services of England's best young midfielder for the tie against Milan.
Wilshere excelled in Europe last season. One of his best performances of the campaign came in the first leg against FC Barcelona at the Emirates.
Wilshere was fearless in carrying the fight to arguably the best club side on the planet. The youngster has proven himself to be tenacious and skillful in Europe's top club competition.
One of Wilshere's finest attributes is that he often delivers his best performances in the biggest games. His determination and craft would be vital against opposition the calibre of AC Milan.
With the first leg scheduled for February 15, Wilshere may not possess enough match fitness to play a significant role.
But by the time of the second leg in early March, Arsenal will hope to be able to rely on Wilshere being back to his best.
2. A Potential Quality Addition in January
By the time Arsenal are preparing to make the trip to Milan, the club may have already used the January transfer window to add some quality to the squad.
Arsenal have been linked with a host of talent, including Borussia Dortmund schemer Mario Goetze. The Gunners will lose forwards Marouane Chamakh and Gervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations and an infusion of top notch talent could prove decisive as the fixtures become congested.
Goetze would be cup tied, but if he did join Arsenal he could provide the boost to get the club back into the top four and ease the domestic pressure on the team, heading into the games against Milan.
Another option would be for the Gunners to add a player who would be free to participate against the current Serie A holders.
1. Arsenal Have Been More Solid Away from Home in Europe This Season
In recent seasons, Arsenal's away form has been their undoing in the UEFA Champions League and many may be concerned that the Milan tie could be over after the first leg.
But the Gunners have been far more defensively stout and resolute in this season's competition. Aside from defeat to Olympiacos in Athens in what was essentially a dead game, Arsenal have fared very well in some tough destinations so far.
Wenger's team claimed an impressive 1-1 draw in Dortmund in their initial group match and took all three points after a fine 1-0 win in Marseille, courtesy of Aaron Ramsey's injury time winner.
In fact, only a late wonder strike in Germany denied Arsenal six points from these two difficult away trips. The Gunners have been more compact, ruthless and efficient on their European travels this season.
This should give the team an abundance of confidence for the trip to Italy and provides real hope that Arsenal can secure a positive result in the San Siro.
Victory over Milan Would Do Wonders for Arsenal's Confidence in the Competition
Defeating AC Milan would provide Arsenal with an enormous amount of confidence that they can go on and win this season's Champions League.
Dismissing one of the biggest names in the competition would provide a major boost and instill plenty of belief in Wenger's rebuilt team, convincing them that they are capable of matching anybody.
Arsenal received a similar positive effect after knocking out Real Madrid in early 2006. That victory inspired a makeshift squad all the way to the final.
After enduring a torrid start to the season, seeing off the Rossoneri could be counted on to produce similar results for the Gunners.