Familiar foes meet again in the Champions League

Posted by Sumeet Paul

M'Baye Niang missed a good chance to equalise for Milan in BarcelonaGettyImagesMilan and Barca have a rich history in the Champions League.

As Barcelona director Andoni Zubizarreta quipped on Monday; "It wouldn't be the Champions League unless we played Milan," as the two giants of European football meet yet again in Europe's premier competition. Coaches and players may have changed, but the tactics are arguably the same for the Rossoneri on Tuesday night at San Siro.

Last season's meeting in Italy played host to a memorable win for Massimiliano Allegri, after he tactically masterminded an impressive win over the Catalan giants. Milan were able to stay compact throughout, thus limiting any space between the lines and hitting their opponents on the counter-attack.

However, to produce a repeat performance will require a high level of focus and concentration throughout the game, and a near-perfect effort from the starting line-up. Whether that is possible remains to be seen, but confidence will have been boosted after the win over Udinese on Saturday.

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Very rarely do teams out-play the likes of Barca or Spain, but their weaknesses can be exploited with the right attitude. Allowing them to dictate play and dominate possession can be a risky strategy, but if the Rossoneri are able to function as a unit defensively and then attack with purpose and be clinical, then it is possible that Allegri could be celebrating another positive result.

It will also be the first opportunity to dispel memories of that disappointing night in Spain in the return leg last season, but there are inevitably dangers ahead that will make this a difficult task.

The newspapers in Spain focused on the Barcelona attacking trident on Monday, which consists of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Alexis Sanchez. The trio have been integral so far this season, and it will be fundamental that Milan maintain their shape and awareness from start to finish.

Meanwhile, Allegri has decisions of his own to make ahead of Tuesday's meeting, with mixed news in terms of player selection. Marco Amelia will deputise for the injured Christian Abbiati, as despite his impressive Serie A debut on Saturday, Gabriel is unavailable after being left off the list.

Further afield, Philippe Mexes could return after his domestic suspension ensured he was absent for the win over Udinese, but the defence is undoubtedly the biggest worry going into this encounter and it will require the midfield to make it as difficult as possible for the team to be broken down.

For the sake of the spectacle in terms of Milan's offensive threat, it is hoped that Allegri will opt for Andrea Poli over Sulley Muntari. The former offers much needed dynamism and penetration as opposed to Muntari's lateral movement and it is imperative that Riccardo Montolivo and Nigel De Jong enforce their authority early on and take charge of the midfield battle.

However, perhaps most important is the potential return of Mario Balotelli from injury, although it is unclear at this stage as to how fit the 23-year-old is. Nevertheless, it will take a significant team effort to prevail on Tuesday night, and the level of defending from front to back is of fundamental importance.

Can Milan topple Barcelona? What is the key aspect of their performance to win?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty


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