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Optimism vs Realism & Milan Preview and Lineups

Arsenal vs AC Milan, Emirates Stadium, Champions League Round of 16 2nd Leg

Kickoff – 19:45 GMT (01:15 IST), 6th March 2012

The day is finally here. Three weeks back, I was hoping we would go into the second leg of the Champions League Round of 16 at the Emirates, with a 1-1 or 0-1 aggregate score. But, here we are, anyways, with a 4-0 aggregate score, and a massive challenge to go through to the next round.

Events over the last two weeks, though, have been hugely optimistic. We banged 5 goals past Sp*rs, and snatched a late win at Liverpool, 6 points from two tough games, and a rejuvenated team. Of course, as I have said Milan are no Sp*rs, or a Blackburn, who we thumped 7 against, but there is still a football match to be won.

Arsene Wenger certainly believes the tie is not over yet.

We want to have a real go,The best way is to ignore the first game and do what we did against Tottenham. We were 2-0 down and just kept going because we wanted to win.We have to gamble a little bit and we have to go forward,We know that.The target is to find a good balance between attacking and defending because we have a double target – not to concede as well.I know my players well. I know they’ve been hurt by the first result and I know they will have their pride and they’ll come out tomorrow to give a different performance.If they can score four we can do it as well. Why not?

Yes, why not, you may ask. Arsenal will have to go gung-ho, in the opening minutes, I feel. The opening 30 minutes will be crucial. If we can get a goal, or even two, within this time, we have a game on our hands. However, if we concede a goal on the counter-attack, then the tie is over.

I expect Arsene Wenger to start with all three, Walcott, Gervinho and Chamberlain, to bomboard Milan with pace. I would also expect Tomas Rosicky to start, to bring some pace in the centre of midfield, in place of Mikel Arteta, who has been ruled out, because of the concussion suffered in the Liverpool match. Only an early barrage of attacks will peg back Milan, but if the game starts at a slow pace, Milan will look only to close out the tie.

Alex Song will be key in midfield. Arsenal will have to cut all supply lines in the centre of midfield, and catch Milan on the break. We are still not sure what kind of performance we will get from Theo Walcott. He looks utterly clueless at times, when played on the flanks, and totally out of ideas. He did score 2 goals against Tottenham, but his overall display, in that game, apart from the goals, was below average. His play against Liverpool wasn’t too impressive either. If he starts, it would mean a 4-4-2 formation, with Chamberlain and Gervinho on the flanks. Walcott will play just behind the striker, and hope that van Persie can get in behind the Milan defence, just like he did on Saturday, in goal scoring situations.

While the Milan pitch was atrocious, that can be no complaint for a loss. Arsenal will have to find a way to keep Ibrahimovic and Robinho quiet. Sagna and Gibbs will have to be on their toes, to revert from attack to defence quickly, because in the first leg, Milan looked dangerous on the counter. Szczesny, Koscielny and Vermaelen will have to put in big performances.

Abou Diaby’s absence is a big blow. I think, if he was fit, he would have boosted our midfield, and helped us make forays into Milan. Sadly, he, Arteta, and Benayoun are ruled out.

Massimiliano Allegri is expecting a hard game from the Gunners.

In football, anything can happen,I think we need to step on the pitch fired up for 90 minutes without thinking what we did in the first leg.We must be conscious that we are going to face a team with great qualities and a team which will try to change the course of the tie right from the beginning.I also know the English teams will never surrender.

Milan, have named a 21 man squad without the likes of Ambrosini, Seedorf, Nesta, Boateng, Pato and Gattuso. Probably, injuries, or rest, or tactical. However, they still have enough depth in their squad. Gunner fans can only hope they play complacently, allowing Arsenal to make inroads.

Scoring 5 goals without a reply, will be hard task. I can’t even remember the last time we had a clean sheet. We conceded against Blackburn, Sunderland in the league, Milan, Sunderland in the cup, Tottenham and against Liverpool. Should we concede, even a 5-1 win is no good.

Kieran Gibbs, in the pre-match interview stated, that the second leg was all about regaining lost pride.

You don’t really like to accept to get beaten 4-0 in the Champions League.We’ve shown a fantastic mentality to come back in the last couple of games. We have created a momentum now. We’d like to continue that.

According to history books, a 4 goal deficit has been overturned only 3 times in European competition.

1961: Leixos 5-0 Chaux de Fonds (Leixos won 7-6 on aggregate)

1984: Partizan Belgrade 6-2 QPR (6-6 on aggregate. Belgrade won on away goals rule)

1985: Real Madrid 5-1 Borussia Moenchengladbach (5-5 on aggregate. Madrid won on away goals rule)

Team news, then. Arsenal are having a torrid time with injuries at the moment. With Benayoun, Arteta, Diaby, Ramsey, Coquelin all ruled out, among long-term absentees like Wilshere and Frimpong, and Arshavin loaned out, the only options available are Alex Song and Tomas Rosicky. To make matters worse, Tomas Rosicky is still a doubt and will face a late fitness test. If he doesn’t clear it, Wenger will be forced to start with two strikers, Chamakh finally getting a start.

Milan have not named Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf, Allesandro Nesta and Kevin Prince-Boateng in their 21 man squad. Sulley Muntari, loaned from Inter, is cup-tied. I think Milan will look to win the midfield battle by playing Mark van Bommel, Antonio Nocerino and Urby Emanuelson. Apart from that they haven’t got too many options in midfield. Djamel Mesbah, a left-back, could start at left-midfield. Or, Milan also have the option of Liverpool flop Alberto Aquilani. They could also ploy a third striker in Stefan El-Shaarawy. The depth Milan’s squad and options, is, well, pretty deep.

If you are a Gooner, do not expect Arsenal to turn over the 4 goal deficit. A 1-0 win would make me happy and help the Gunners regain some lost pride. The clue is to be realistic and not overly optimistic. Of course, we would be top of the world should we topple Milan over, but for now I am just hoping for an exciting game of football.

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Jai Arsenal 🙂

About supreetkini

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I would like to introduce myself starting with my favourite quote "I don't know whether life is sh*t cos Arsenal is sh*t or the other way round" - Nick Hornby, author, Fever Pitch. Since I started supporting Arsenal, every mood of mine, every bit of my behavior is a reflection of Arsenal's form! Well, that's enough a description to tell you how much I love the Gunners! :D I have my own Arsenal blog, blazingcannons.wordpress.com

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