BARCELONA, Spain (AP) – Barcelona has to set aside memories of its only Champions League failure under coach Pep Guardiola when AC Milan visits on Tuesday, knowing a victory is needed to avoid another exit to an Italian club.
A scoreless draw in the first leg of their quarterfinal has set the scene for a must-win match for Barcelona, which has twice won the competition since Guardiola took charge three seasons ago. The only blight on that record was exiting to Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan two years ago in the semifinals.
Barcelona is hoping the a home field at Camp Nou will better cater to their explosive attack after the club officially protested to UEFA over the San Siro turf, on which several players lost their footing and kicked up clumps of grass.
Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns to Camp Nou for the first time since leaving Barcelona in 2010, after missing the teams’ 2-2 draw there in the group stage with an injury. Milan’s attack will be boosted by the return of Alexandre Pato, who scored in the group-stage match in September.
Pato struck in the opening minutes of that game, and the Rossoneri then scored a stoppage-time equalizer that serves as a reminder of the Italian champions’ abilities.
“We may dominate but you can never be sure because in any moment they can strike back,” said Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez, whose team fell one goal short of progressing against Inter two years ago. “It’s going to be a very difficult match. They won’t make it easy for us and we’re going to have to play a great game.”
Barcelona fullback Adriano and midfielder Ibrahim Afellay are available, while David Villa and Eric Abdial remain sidelined. Midfielder Cesc Fabregas and defender Carles Puyol were rested for Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao with Milan in mind.
Milan has bigger injury worries with Thiago Silva and Mark van Bommel out injured, while goalkeeper Christian Abbiati and midfielder Antonio Nocerino should be fit despite being seen limping after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Catania.
Lionel Messi can match Thierry Henry’s Champions League total of 50 goals – third best behind Raul Gonzalez and Ruud van Nistelrooy – by scoring for the 20th time in 11 games Tuesday.
Barcelona is unbeaten in 11 matches – with 10 victories – and hasn’t lost at the Camp Nou for 51 games, dating back to September 2010. It hasn’t lost to Milan in nearly eight years and is trying to reach the Champions League semifinals for the fifth successive year, which would equal the record set by Real Madrid between 1956-60.
- Barcelona to face AC Milan in Champions League
- Barca and Milan eye Champions League knockout stage
- Barca, Milan look to avoid Champs League upsets
- Barcelona, Milan and Arsenal eye early qualification
- Milan holds Barcelona to 0-0 draw in Champs League