AC Milan vs Arsenal, San Siro, Champions League
Kickoff – 19:45 GMT (01:15 IST), 15th February 2012
The earth has done a full 70 rotations, and here we are, again, the Champions League. The best football competition in the world is back, and the wait has been too long, and everyone’s waiting for the action to get started.
Arsenal face their biggest test of the season, as they head to Italy to face the Italian champions, and 7 time European Cup winner AC Milan, in their formidable and hostile home, the San Siro. A tie, which Arsenal would have liked to avoid, but then again, as Arsene Wenger says, you can’t avoid anybody at this stage.
I say it’s a conspiracy. If we do beat Milan, it will be to face either a Barcelona or a Real Madrid.
Both teams go into this game, on the bounce of 2-1 away wins against dodgy opposition. While Arsenal required a 34 year old legend to strike a last gasp winner on a potholed pitch in Sunderland, it took a 19 year old hotshot to win the game for Milan at the Stadio Friuli in Udinese. Both games were mirrors of each other, as Arsenal and Milan were down 1-0 with 15 minutes to go.
Recent form for both sides have been topsy turvy. Arsenal recovered from losses to Fulham, Swansea and Manchester United, to secure progress in the FA Cup by beating Aston Villa, and then thumping Blackburn and narrowing past Sunderland. Milan on the other hand, lost to Lazio and Inter, but did win 3-0 against both Novara and Cagliari. However, they lost to Juventus at home in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final, as recently as last week.
Going by the history books, the Gunners have a formidable one against Italian sides. Here’s how Arsenal have fared against Italian opposition.
1970/71 – Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – Lazio (A) – D 2-2
1970/71 – Inter-Cities Fairs Cup – Lazio (H) – W 2-0
1979/80 – European Cup Winners Cup – Juventus (H) – D 1-1
1979/80 – European Cup Winners Cup – Juventus (A) – W 1-0
1993/94 – European Cup Winners Cup – Torino (A) – D 0-0
1993/94 – European Cup Winners Cup – Torino (H) – W 1-0
1993/94 – European Cup Winners Cup Final – Parma (N) – W 1-0
1995 – European Super Cup – AC Milan (H) – D 0-0
1995 – European Super Cup – AC Milan (A) – L 2-0
1994/95 – UEFA Cup Winners Cup – Sampdoria (H) -W 3-2
1994/95 – UEFA Cup Winners Cup – Sampdoria (A) -L 3-2 (Won 3-2 on penalties)
1999/00 – Champions League – Fiorentina (A) – D 0-0
1999/00 – Champions League – Fiorentina (H) – L 1-0
2000/01 – Champions League – Lazio (H) – W 2-0
2000/01 – Champions League – Lazio (A) – D 1-1
2001/02 – Champions League – Juventus (H) – W 3-1
2001/02 – Champions League – Juventus (A) – L 1-0
2002/03 – Champions League – Roma (A) – W 3-1
2002/03 – Champions League – Roma (H) – D 1-1
2003/04 – Champions League – Inter Milan (H) – L 3-0
2003/04 – Champions League – Inter Milan (A) – W 5-1
2005/06 – Champions League – Juventus (H) – W 2-0
2005/06 – Champions League – Juventus (A) – D 0-0
2007/08 – Champions League – AC Milan (H) D 0-0
2007/08 – Champions League – AC Milan (A) – W 2-0
2008/09 – Champions League – Roma (H) – W 1-0
2008/09 – Champions League – Roma (A) – L 1-0 (Won 7-6 on penalties)
2011/12 – Champions League – Udinese (H) – W 1-0
2011/12 – Champions League – Udinese (A) – W 2-1
So, it is quite evident that Arsenal have had the better of Italian opposition on many-an-occassion. The proud record stands at P 23 W 12 D 7 L 4.
Moreover, Arsenal’s record at the San Siro is admirable. They thrashed Inter 5-1 in 2003/04, thanks to a certain Thierry Henry, who is in the squad for tomorrow’s game, and beat AC Milan 2-0 in 07/08, when Cesc Fabregas bossed the Milan midfield.
Aaron Ramsey, who scored the equaliser against Sunderland, is optimistic about Arsenal’s chances, going into the game. He also weighed up Arsenal’s team talk in midweek.
We had a meeting last week about doing well for the rest of the season and one of the points that came to us was to never give up in the game,That was the case against Sunderland, and we showed it against Aston Villa too.We have good team spirit here and belief that we can still win the game. It was nice for me to get on the scoresheet as well as Thierry getting the winner.It’s been a fantastic period for him coming back to the Club he supports and has done so much for. It’s a great story for him so far.There was a great atmosphere in the dressing room after the game and everyone was enjoying it. We were 1-0 down with just over 10 minutes to go, so it was a great win for us.
Both, the Welsh captain and Arsene Wenger have reiterated the need to attack Milan from the word ‘go’. It is of paramount importance to get an away goal, which will ofcourse boost the Gunners’ chances of progression.
AC Milan also have had their mind-talks. Both Clarence Seedorf and Kevin Prince-Boateng are in confident mood ahead of the clash. The Dutch midfielder, who, is like a billion years old now, says he is also pleased for his compatriot Robin van Persie, who is on a hot streak this season for Arsenal.
They are a strong all-round side and they always play good football,Van Persie is finally exploding and I am very happy for him, but we know what we are going to have to deal with and we are ready. It is going to be a tough game – Arsenal have always changed important players a lot over the last six or seven years and have still managed to perform well. They haven’t won trophies but they are still a dangerous team.I don’t like to talk about fear in sport, in general. I think you need to respect your opponent but if you prepare the way you should so you can perform at your best then it is down to you.”
And former Spu*s midfielder, yes, you heard right, Spu*s midfielder Boateng, is quietly confident of sinking his former club’s arch-rivals. The Ghanian international, who was recently in the news, after his model girlfriend revealed that the reason of Boateng’s recent injuries are down to the fact that they have sex nearly 10 times a week, has returned to full training after recovering from an injury.
Also, returning for Milan, are the preciously talented 22 year old Brazil striker Alexandre Pato and the highly experienced Italian international Allesandro Nesta. Also, Cristian Abbiati, Milan’s first choice goalkeeper will return to take his place from Marco Amelia.
Arsenal will be without Per Mertesacker, who injured himself, while attempting to control the ball, on the potholed pitch at Sunderland. He recently tweeted an image of his swollen ankle, and the news seems to be ligament damage. He is surely out of this one. Some good news, then that Jack Wilshere could return earlier than was predicted, after he suffered ‘another setback in his recovery’ last month. The tentative dates are end of the month.
The Mertesacker injury could mean a defensive reshuffle. Thomas Vermaelen, was recently quoted in the Belgian media, as being fedup of playing at left-back. However, later reports say that his comments were skewed, by the English media, who are adept at making monster-trucks out of tricycles. Here’s a transcript of the interview, I have taken from Arseblog News, who in turn have taken it from Untold Arsenal.
You have been injured for a while last season and also this season. Are you back at your old level?
I feel great and play like that. But because our left backs (Santos and Gibbs) are out injured I had to play as left back in the last weeks. I think that is unfortunate but there is nothing that I can change about that.
Did you talk about it with Wenger?
Yes, but what is said between us stays between us. Everybody knows playing left back is not my preferred position.
Why do you think that despite all this you after all are a good left back?
I don’t think I am a bad left back. I do my job over there. But I am never really completely satisfied with myself after playing there. I want to get to my highest level in each game and I don’t have this as a left back. When the team wins I’m happy, but still it is a bit frustrating.
Why are you so much better as a central defender than as a left back?
Tell me why does a striker performs better in attack than in midfield? I’m just trained as a central defender.
And, with left-back Kieran Gibbs returning to full fitness, it is common sense to say, Wenger will move Vermaelen to centre-back. Easier said than done, however. Gibbs is returning to first-team action after a four-month injury layoff, and is still short of match fitness and confidence, according to the manager. Pushing him into the first team, in a high-intensity encounter, would be a risk. The hunch is Vermaelen will continue at left-back, with Djourou partnering Koscielny.
In other news, Arsenal welcome back Gervinho after his African odyssey. While it ended in heartbreak for Ivory Coast, it was joyous for Zambia. Struck by tragedy in 1993, when the plane carrying the Zambian national side crashed near Libreville, killing everyone on board, it has taken 19 years for the ‘Chipolopolo’ to rebuild and reach the pinnacle of African football. What’s more, they did it just kilometers from where the tragedy had struck in 1993.
It speaks of volumes of the game itself, how underdogs have won against all odds. There was Greece, who won EURO 2004, after being touted as the first team to be eliminated after the Group stages. Then, there was Iraq, who won the Asia Cup in 2007, in the midst of political and civilian turmoil in their country. Now, football has a new team to celebrate about, Zambia.
Back to Gervinho then, who scored a brilliant goal in the semi-final, but missed a penalty in the shoot-out, which, had he scored, would have kept the Coast in contention. Also, former Arsenal defender Kolo Toure. Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba, missed a penalty in regulation time. Much has been discussed about the confidence of Gervinho, after that miss. He is still a young lad, with a bright future in front of him. The faster he gets past it, the better for him.
Moving on, Thierry Henry’s return to Arsenal has been nothing short of a fairytale. He scored the winner in the FA Cup game against Leeds, which secured passage into the next round. Then, he scored in his last minute at the Emirates against Blackburn, and he capped it off with a goal in the last minute of the Premier League, against Sunderland. He was full of praise recently, for Arshavin and both sets of supporters at the Stadium of Light.
Andrey’s cross was amazing,all I had to do was get a touch. It was perfect.You have to give him credit. I just had to get on the end of it. You can always miss but I was just the guy who put the ball in the net.I really must say I was on the end of a great cross. It just happens that it was me in the last minute so it is a story. But the most important thing was the three points whether I was in the team or not.
It’s always been a pleasure to come to Sunderland. I’ve always found this a very special place to play football and, when I was warming up, the fans near me started clapping. The atmosphere was fantastic.It being my last Premier League game, to score in the 90th minute was so special, something really magical.I stayed a bit longer with the Arsenal fans because I knew it was my last game in the Premier League so I wanted to say ‘Thanks, that’s it’.
And Henry also left a hint that he could be back next season as well. Legendary!
Sometimes you never know when something is going to end,I guess you can never say never. I never thought I was going to come back and play for Arsenal now. Who knows if I can say that this was definitely the end? We’ll see.
Wouldn’t it be the perfect ending to the fairytale, if he were to manage a winner at the San Siro as well. Meanwhile, I feel this is the perfect time for both England wingers, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to shine. Arsenal will need plenty of pace in Italy.
Meanwhile, Arsenal have confirmed they will be wearing the yellow kit, which was the away kit last season, and registered as 3rd kit this season. Not too sure, whether we will have ‘Fly Emirates’ or ‘Dubai’ as our shirt sponsor today, because AC Milan, too have the same shirt sponsor. The last time we had ‘Dubai’ on our jerseys, Tomas Rosicky scored a scorcher in Hamburg.
Milan are considered an ageing side. But, that’s all a myth. They have a massive and extremely talented squad. With 2 or 3 world-class players at every position, Milan will, undoubtedly start this game as favorites. Lead by the experienced Massimo Ambrosini, they boast the likes of Clarence Seedorf, who has won the Champions League, with 3 different clubs, Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan; midfielder Antonio Nocerino, who has been a brilliant player for them in midfield. Should Kevin Prince-Boateng start, it will be another player Arsenal will have to stifle. He has a good shot on him, and is known for the audacious.
Milan, in recent games have stuck to a rotation policy. Considering the fact they have a massive squad and a plethora of talent to choose from, it comes as no surprise. While Brazilian Thiago Silva and Allesandro Nesta will be the preffered centre-back pairing, Massimiliano Allegri has the likes of France international Phillipe Mexes, and Italian international Daniele Bonera at his disposal. With left-back Taye Taiwo loaned to QPR, Luca Antonini is expected to start in his place, and at right-back will be Ignazio Abate.
Up front, Milan will play 2 strikers, in a 4-4-2 formation, as they have for most of the season. With Pato just returning from injury, Cassano still injured, and El Shaarawy still a youngster, it seems more than likely that Ibrahimovic will be partnered by former Santos, Real Madrid and Manchester City striker Robinho.
Ibrahimovic is to Milan what van Persie is to Arsenal. The Swedish marksman has scored 21 goals this season, 4 in the Champions League, compared to van Persie’s 28, with 4 in the Champions League. Though Robinho has been under par in recent games, his talent cannot be undermined. Allegri could still however start with El Shaarawy.
The fact that Milan have players like Gianluca Zambrotta, Fillipo Inzaghi, Gennaro Gattuso (all World Cup winners), Alberto Aquilani, Mark van Bommel, Mario Yepes, Urby Emanuelson, Sulley Muntari, Antonio Cassano, former Arsenal midfielder Matheiu Flamini and Maxi Lopez, all internationals, some of whom are out of the first leg owing to injury; in reserve, is proof enough of the depth and quality of their squad, and a representation of the challenge that Arsenal will have to overcome in 2 legs.
But, like I said, football is capable of anything. It is going to be a treat to watch these two teams pit their wits against each other.
And we all know who we want to win!
Jai Arsenal 🙂