FOOTBALL: Barcelona are more than just Messi, AC Milan told
AC MILAN have been told they’ll need to do more than just stop Lionel Messi if they are to have a chance of knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League.
The two European heavyweights clash in the second round first-leg at the San Siro tonight with all the focus very much on the Argentine ace.
At the weekend he once again proved the difference as his brace got the Catalan giants another win, this time 2-1 at Granada. But in spite of his great goal-scoring feats - he’s now got 301 goals in 365 matches - Pedro Rodriguez insists Barca are more than a one-man team, and Milan will find that out to their cost.
“Messi’s a key player for what he brings, his goals, his work rate,” Pedro said.
“He’s decisive because he takes responsibility on the pitch. It would be noticeable if he wasn’t playing but we aren’t dependent on him, there are other players that can rise to the occasion.”
Barca have lost only two games in La Liga and Europe all season and head into the tie as big favourites. Still hurt by their semi-final exit against an inferior Chelsea side last year, the Nou Camp boys are keen to reinforce their status as best in the world by picking up their fourth European Cup in eight years and fifth overall.
However, they’re not taking victory over AC for granted.
“Milan have always been a difficult side because they have a lot of history and they have very dangerous players,” the forward added. “Anything can happen in a two leg tie in the Champions League, we have to be concentrated and be very vigilant.”
And up for grabs is a treble with Barca virtually assured the La Liga title and still in the hunt for the Copa del Ray.
“The most crucial part of the season has arrived, and we’re going to go all out in the league the Champions League and in the Copa del Rey - we’re not going to hold anything back,” Pedro said.
Milan, seven-time winners, know they have it all to do if they are to beat the favourites to lift the trophy in May. But a former Barca boy who now plays at the San Siro is thinking only positive thoughts.
“We are going through a positive period. We have to believe in ourselves,” Bojan Krkic, who progressed through the ranks at Barcelona, scoring 41 goals in 163 appearances, said.
“We have to try and work hard and go into the match knowing that we are playing in the knockout stages of the Champions League, against Barcelona, in one of the biggest matches in the world.
“This isn’t a three-point match, this is a game over 180 minutes.”
If you cannot get excited about this fixture you must be an idiot or someone with a real deep-seated, and vaguely irrational, hatred of football. This is a meeting of two great clubs - sides overflowing with riches and history. While we cannot remember as far back as 1960 when Barca beat AC 7-1 on aggregate, we can recall watching Milan’s masterclass in 1994 when they taught Johan Cruyff’s Dream Team, and everyone watching, a footballing lesson with a 4-0 win. More of the same please...
AC MILAN - Had a shocking start to the season when it looked like they were facing a relegation battle. However, have found some form and are currently on a six-game unbeaten run. Though new signing Mario Balotelli is cup-tied and Giampaolo Pazzini is expected to come in. The Rossoneri will know that despite playing at home they’ll be underdogs - Milan have failed to defeat Barcelona in the past seven meetings between the two sides...
BARCELONA - Unless you’re a Real Madrid fan Barca are everyone’s favourite side to watch - they make it look so easy. That’s because, as Pedro suggests, they’re not a one-man team. Blessed with talent going forward - Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas - they are, however, going through a dodgy spell at the back. The Catalans have failed to keep a clean sheet in nine matches so AC will be well advised to go out on the attack tonight.
This is one of the weakest AC Milan sides we can remember in a long time. They’ll know all too well that to have a chance of going through they’ll need to score more than once at home. Barca can be brittle at the back so there will be goals in this one. Visitors to win 3-1...