Milan vs. Barcelona  0 - 0

Article

Messi blames Milan pitch for draw

29 March 2012 09:51

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi was disappointed with the 0-0 draw against AC Milan on Wednesday.

The Catalans created a number of chances in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie, but failed to find the net at San Siro, and Messi feels that the poor condition of the pitch made things difficult for Barca.

"It was a tough match that we should have won. We played our game but it was difficult because of the pitch, and because they (Milan) are very strong," Messi told the club's official website.

The Argentine then admitted that Barca face a perilous scenario in the return leg at home as the tie remains delicately poised.

"It’s a dangerous situation. Either team could go through. We hope we can score in the return so it will be us. We deserved to win (the first leg)."

Meanwhile, Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf felt his team should have done better in front of goal.

The Serie A champions put in a strong defensive display to shut out the Catalans, but were also unable to find the net themselves.

"We’re satisfied with the result even if we have to be more clinical in front of goal. We had three big chances and that could make the difference," Seedorf told the Milan website.

"It’s a good result that leaves qualification open. We’ll need courage, quality and tactical awareness in the return.

"You can’t press for 90 minutes, but we did well and Barcelona respect us. The pitch at San Siro is the way it is. We have Catania next and then we'll think about the second leg. Now we need to rest."

The second leg is at Camp Nou on April 3.

Article

Guardiola, Allegri satisfied - for different reasons

29 March 2012 06:00

Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has taken AC Milan boss MassimilIano Allegri's pleasure at their Champions League draw as a compliment.

Milan's battle with the defending European champions at the San Siro finished scoreless, with Allegri expressing his delight at holding off the favoured Barca outfit, while Guardiola was thrilled his side took the game on in the away leg.

Allegri reserved special praise for Luca Antonini, who kept Barca maestro Lionel Messi relatively quiet and off the scoresheet.

"I wish to congratulate my side on their performance. We suffered more in the first half than the second, and Luca Antonini was brilliant marking Lionel Messi," Allegri said.

"Tonight we showed great commitment despite some difficult moments, and now we can think about the return - a draw or a win will see us through."

But Guardiola said that Milan's relief to escape without shipping a goal was a negative mindset from the Italians, and a bonus for the La Liga champions.

"That Milan are happy with tonight's result is the greatest praise for us. You never settle a tie in the first leg, and the only thing we are missing is an away goal," Guardiola said.

"We deserve a lot of recognition for coming here and trying to play football. I give my players credit for managing 17 shots on goal."

Allegri said he felt his side did create chances on goal early, before settling for a draw.

"We approached the game in two different phases, the defensive one and the attacking one," the Italian boss said.

"We played better football after the restart, but in the first half we created several clear chances and despite the regret at not taking them we gained confidence. The final result is fair, now we know we can achieve qualification in Barcelona. It's very difficult to measure our chances for the return leg."

Guardiola begged to differ, however, stating that his goalkeeper Victor Valdes went virtually untroubled throughout the 90 minutes.

"To be champions you must come through all types of tests. We have come through many before and we will continue to do so," the Spaniard said.

"We must try to do things better each time, there is no other way. Apart from the first few threats - including (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic's one-on-one with Valdes - they hardly had a shot the entire game."

The second leg will take place at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Article

Ibrahimovic happy to grab draw against Barca

29 March 2012 00:38

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was satisfied with a draw against Barcelona in their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday.

The Swede missed a great chance to score against his former club in the first leg of the tie, but with Milan able to shut out the Catalan giants and prevent an away goal, Ibrahimovic remains in good spirits for the second leg at Camp Nou next week.

"We had some opportunities but, unfortunately, we unable to score," Ibrahimovic told Sky Sport 24.

"However, the result is very good for us. I am optimistic for the second leg."

Fellow forward Urby Emanuelson is also looking to move on quickly to the return leg, after spurning a great opportunity within seconds of his arrival as a substitute during the second half.

"My appearance was a bit unlucky. In my first action I could have scored but forgot the ball. That can happen," Emanuelson told NOS.

"I know that was a very important moment, but what can I do about it right now after the match? Let's try better next time.

"I think we will get chances next week. Barcelona always play their own game, so we will have opportunities."

Emanuelson - a Netherlands international - was also relieved that his side were able to keep Barca maestro Lionel Messi at bay during the game, with the Argentine forward unable to add to his 12 Champions League goals in the current campaign.

"Messi played like Messi. He's always dangerous and never plays a bad match. We're glad he did not score tonight," the Dutchman said.

Article

Champions League: AC Milan 0 Barcelona 0

28 March 2012 22:52

AC Milan held Barcelona to a 0-0 stalemate in their Champions League quarter-final first-leg clash at San Siro on Wednesday night.

The visitors had their chances, among them a no-call on a penalty claim on Alexis Sanchez, but a sterling defensive display by Massimiliano Allegri's men saw the Spanish outfit frustrated and sets up an enthralling second leg at Camp Nou next Tuesday.

An end-to-end start to the match saw Milan nearly storm into the lead after only three minutes. A scramble inside the penalty area saw the ball spill to Robinho in space, but with the goal at his mercy, he could not find the target as his volley flew over the bar.

The early shock did not faze Barcelona, who slowly began to cause problems at the other end of the pitch. With 10 minutes gone, Lionel Messi's low drive was fumbled by Christian Abbiati, who was fortunate to see Dani Alves scoop the rebound the wrong side of the post.

Abbiati was in the thick of things again within minutes, after he charged off his line to bring down Sanchez in the area. There did not appear to be much contact with the ball from the Milan keeper, but no penalty was forthcoming, leaving the visitors to remonstrate furiously with referee Jonas Errikson.

Not long after, the Catalans managed to find the back of the net, but the goal was correctly disallowed as Messi was in a clear offside position when he turned home Alves' cross.

Milan survived the scare, and saw another golden chance go begging with 20 minutes gone. A swift move saw Clarence Seedorf put Zlatan Ibrahimovic through on goal, but his finish was weak and easily smothered by Victor Valdes.

Barcelona were unsurprisingly able to control nearly two-thirds of possession, but some dogged defending from the hosts and the questionable state of the San Siro pitch prevented them from getting fully into their stride.

The Milan backline was caught out 10 minutes before half-time though, as Sanchez was put clean through, but Luca Antonini matched him stride for stride and got back to make a fantastic block just as the Chilean was about to pull the trigger.

Andres Iniesta sent another warning Milan's way coming out of the interval, with a quick dart into space ending with a snap shot from the edge of the area that flew just wide.

However, Barcelona were finding it increasingly difficult to get a clear sight on goal as the second half wore on, with Milan keeping their discipline and organisation at the back.

With 67 minutes gone, substitute Urby Emanuelson nearly made an immediate impact seconds after his arrival when he raced onto a through pass deep in the area, but his first touch was woeful and halted the move in its tracks.

Barcelona hit back soon after through a substitute of their own, with Tello finding space on the right side of the box and letting fly with an effort that rippled the side netting.

Tello caused more Milan hearts to flutter when his dangerous cutback saw Messi's volley deflected just over the bar, as the resulting corner was headed just wide by Carles Puyol.

Minutes before the end, Abbiati was on hand to deny Messi, beating away the Argentine's low drive, with Tello also thwarted from the rebound by another brilliant tackle from Antonini as Milan preserved the 0-0 scoreline.

Article

Thiago Silva hails Barca´s Messi

28 March 2012 15:48

AC Milan defender Thiago Silva has praised Barcelona's Lionel Messi ahead of the teams' Champions League quarter-final at San Siro.

Brazil international Thiago Silva will miss Wednesday's first-leg clash due to injury, and fears his team-mates will face a difficult task stopping one of the sport's best players.

"Messi is a special player, certainly the best attacker I've played against to date, but I think comparing players from different generations is difficult," Thiago Silva told FIFA.com.

"All I know is that he's spectacular and already is definitely among the best ever."

Despite the threat posed by Messi, Silva is hopeful Milan can achieve a positive result in the first leg to take with them for the return at Camp Nou next Tuesday.

"We have to be optimistic," he said.

"We're happy to be taking on a team that's currently considered to be the best in the world.

"We know how strong they are and we respect them, but we're also a club with an immense pedigree and a lot of European titles.

"Almost everybody sees Barcelona as favourites and I think that's natural.

"So, it's down to us to prove over these games that we've got what it takes and to show Milan are worthy of winning the European title again.

"Milan's victorious Champions League pedigree means they always get respect, while the fact we've already played them in the group phase is undoubtedly a plus point.

"I don't know if Barcelona are wary of us, what matters is that we do our bit and play our football."

Article

Guardiola talks up Milan´s strengths

28 March 2012 11:15

Pep Guardiola believes Barcelona will need two 'excellent' games to knock AC Milan out of the Champions League.

Despite going into their quarter-final first leg clash on Wednesday heavy favourites, Barca coach Guardiola insisted Milan, 'one of the best teams in the world', would pose all manner of problems.

Many have written off the Italian giants, including round-of-16 conqueror Arsenal's manager, Arsene Wenger, but Guardiola warned the tie would not be decided in Milan on Wednesday.

"San Siro is one of the great stadiums in European football and AC Milan is one of the best teams in the world," he told the club's website.

"In the quarter-finals of a competition like this, with an opponent like this one, you must be aware that have to play two excellent games or you won't go through."

Of the threats, Guardiola earmarked former Barca marksman Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the player who needed to be nullified.

"They have great combative play, they're good in the air, and they dominate long passes, thanks to Ibrahimovic.

"When he receives the ball, the whole offensive mechanism of the team snaps into play.

"He's unbeatable in the air. We must try to deactivate him and AC Milan through ball possession."

Article

Champions League preview: AC Milan v Barcelona

28 March 2012 05:25

AC Milan will be desperate for a home win over Barcelona in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final at the San Siro.

Massimiliano Allegri's men were handed the tough draw of the defending champions, and a win on Wednesday is key in their bid to go through to the last four.

The Serie A leaders, who played out a draw and lost to Barcelona in the group stages of the competition, enter the encounter in fine form, unbeaten in four matches.

Allegri's side have been guided by the excellent form of striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who took his tally to 29 goals in all competitions with a brace in the 2-1 win against Roma on Saturday.

They continue to dominate in the league despite several injury problems, with Thiago Silva the latest concern.

Silva will miss a month with a thigh injury, joining Alexandre Pato, Ignazio Abate, Robinho and Alexander Merkel on the sidelines.

Mark van Bommel, who is missing with a back problem, is serving a one-match ban for the first leg.

AC Milan welcome a red-hot Barcelona side, with Lionel Messi in particular starring in recent outings.

Pep Guardiola's men have won nine straight games in all competitions, seeing them close the gap on La Liga leaders Real Madrid to six points.

Argentine superstar Messi has been a standout, netting 12 times in their last five victories to take his tally to 55 this term.

The reigning champions are still without David Villa, although Alexis Sanchez and young gun Cristian Tello have filled the void.

Guardiola had the luxury of keeping gun midfielder Xavi on the bench in his side's 2-0 win at Mallorca on Saturday, but the Spain international is a certainty to return against AC Milan.

Allegri's side troubled Barcelona but were 3-2 losers when the teams met on November 23 last year, and he would love for his team to keep a clean sheet in their home leg.

A home win is almost a must if the Serie A champions are to progress to a semi-final clash with either Benfica or Chelsea.

Article

Allegri: We must be offensive

27 March 2012 18:22

AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said his side will be attacking Barcelona from the outset of their Champions League quarter-final first leg.

The European champions visit Milan on Wednesday for the tussle - the third time the teams will have met in the Champions League this season.

Allegri's side held Barca to a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou on September 13 before being beaten 3-2 at San Siro in November.

The Milan manager insisted they need to score in the first leg in order to have a chance of reaching the semi-finals.

"Against Barcelona, we need to reduce the amount of errors. We have to play offensively, because we need to score to advance," Allegri said in the pre-match press conference.

"We can't play like (Jose) Mourinho's Inter did at Camp Nou. They were a more physical team and we are more technical. This Milan side is not built to defend with everyone near the penalty area.

"It will be two difficult matches, because they are the best team in the world. We have to be ready and play well."

The 44-year-old discussed the absence of Thiago Silva, but said his team have what it takes to cope without the Brazil international.

"Thiago Silva is a champion and we will definitely miss him versus Barca. But (Alessandro) Nesta is ready and I have other players at my disposal," he said.

"I would have liked to face Barca with my strongest team, but that doesn't mean that we are not ready to face them.

"(Kevin-Prince) Boateng and (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic will start. I still have to decide who will be Ibra's partner in the attack. We will evaluate Robinho's condition today. If he doesn't make it, then we have Stephan El Shaarawy and Maxi Lopez ready."

Allegri took the time to praise Ibrahimovic, and said the Swedish star is a joy to work with.

"It's very easy to be Ibra's coach. He is an exceptional guy, and he gives a lot to the squad and his team-mates," he said.

Article

Zubizarreta: We want to win everything

27 March 2012 14:36

Barcelona's Andoni Zubizarreta said his club want to win every tournament they play in and do not give extra weight to the Champions League.

Barca have already clinched the Spanish Supercopa, the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup in 2011/12, while they remain in contention for a repeat of the La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble they achieved in 2008/09.

Speaking ahead of their Champions League quarter-final first-leg clash with AC Milan at San Siro, Barca's sporting director said the team are just taking it one game at a time.

"We want to win all the competitions," Zubizarreta said. "We will not give up on winning some tournaments just because there are others which are more appealing.

"We have to keep the same level from previous years, but we are not thinking about that (the treble). We are focused on the game against Milan and then the (La Liga) match against Athletic (Bilbao)."

Barca will take on the Basque side on Saturday, but they face an uphill task to retain their title as they trail leaders Real Madrid by six points with only nine matches left in the league campaign.

However, Zubizarreta dismissed the notion this has been a sub-par season for Barca.

"It is clear that we are doing very well in the Copa del Rey and in the Champions League," he said.

"In La Liga there have been some matches in which we did not play that well, but we have not been that bad this season."

Questioned about his side's upcoming Champions League tie against Milan, the former Barca and Spain goalkeeper singled out Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the biggest threat to the Catalans.

"He is a great player with tremendous quality, and matches like this always give great players a special motivation," he said.

"Milan have great players, which will be a big motivation for us."

Article

Wenger: Milan have no chance

27 March 2012 12:59

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger believes AC Milan have no realistic chance of lifting the Champions League trophy this season.

The Serie A champions reached the quarter-finals of the continental competition after a 4-3 aggregate victory over Arsenal, despite suffering a 3-0 defeat in the return leg at the Emirates.

Ahead of Milan's quarter-final first-leg tie against Barcelona on Wednesday, Wenger said Massimiliano Allegri's team have too many flaws to win the Champions League.

"I know Milan very well: they play very well as far as collective work is concerned, but I do not think they are up to the task of winning the trophy," Wenger wrote in his Eurosport column.

"They have some weak points, although they have a player with the quality of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Robinho can also be very dangerous in attack, but 'Ibra' can score a lot of goals on a good day.

"Milan know what to do to win at San Siro: I hope the condition of their pitch has improved because against us it was a disaster.

"Everyone looks at Milan with respect, but I think they have no chance of winning the Champions League."

Article

Mesbah: Milan have nothing to fear

25 March 2012 17:05

AC Milan left-back Djamel Mesbah believes AC Milan should not fear Champions League quarter-final opponents Barcelona.

Milan welcome Barca to San Siro on Wednesday and few pundits are giving the Italian title-holders much chance of upsetting the reigning world, European and Spanish champions.

But Mesbah believes Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri will do a fine job of shielding his squad from the negativity and pessimism of the press.

"The boss will do everything to motivate the team ahead of the Barcelona game and we shouldn't be afraid of them, because we're Milan," Mesbah said.

Mesbah's defensive colleague, Daniele Bonera, is also talking up Milan's hopes of progressing to the last four, believing this current squad to be of a similar strength to the one that won the Champions League five years ago.

"All the Milan sides I've played have been different," the versatile centre-half said. "In the first year I won the Champions League and this current squad is close to that."

Serie A table

# Team MP D P
6 33 +11 51
7 33 +7 48
8 33 +6 48
9 33 +0 48
10 33 -6 46

Primera División table

# Team MP D P
1 33 +50 82
2 33 +62 79
3 33 +65 78
4 32 +20 59
5 33 +14 56