The veracity of AC Milan’s resurgence in Italy’s Serie A is set to be put to the test when Barcelona visit the San Siro on Wednesday for the first leg of a last 16 tie in the Champions League.
After their worst ever start to a league campaign the Rossoneri have climbed to third place and within touch of securing one of the three Champions League places for next year.
However their survival in this year’s competition could depend on a strong showing in Milan ahead of a return to the formidable surroundings of the Nou Camp on March 12.
Although billed, by Milan, as a match between ‘the best of the world’ – Milan are seven-time European champions while Barcelona, four-time winners, are widely considered the strongest team in the world – the Spanish league leaders have the bragging rights.
Since the acquisition of Mario Balotelli, AC Milan have continued making up for their disastrous start to sit third in the league, 11 points behind leaders Juventus.
But because he played in this season’s competition with Manchester City, Balotelli is Cup-tied for the remaining fixtures.
That paves the way for the likes of Bojan Krkic, formerly of Barcelona, to step up for a game that will have special emotional significance as well as being a crucial step in Milan’s roller-coaster season.
Barcelona currently hold a 12-point lead over Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga in Spain but will travel to Milan without coach Tito Vilanova as he continues treatment in New York to help him recover from a throat cancer operation he underwent before Christmas.
The reins will remain with assistant manager Jordi Roura, who last weekend had occasion to hail star forward Lionel Messi as he scored a double to take his Barcelona goals tally to beyond the mythical 300 mark.AFP