Familiar faces await Milan

Posted by Sumeet Paul

UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino picks out AC MilanGettyImagesUEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino picks out AC Milan

Much like an annoying acquaintance that you just can't seem to avoid, there was a familiar look to the Champions League draw on Thursday morning. The general consensus following the round of 16 pairings was: Barcelona? Again!

European giants Milan and Barca will go head to head for the fifth and sixth times in just two seasons, having faced each other in both the group stages and quarter-finals in last year's Champions League. The Rossoneri fell to defeat in two of those meetings, while salvaging a draw in the other two. Can they get the better of their illustrious opponents this time round?

Recent history would suggest not, considering the Catalans are unbeaten in the last seven matches between the two. If a Zlatan Ibrahimovic inspired Milan couldn't end that run last season, then why should the Rossoneri believe they can on this occasion? One reason that stands out is pressure, or the lack of.

Despite the absence of their European stalwarts for the first time in over a decade, Milan have little expectation in the Champions League. Having seemingly turned the corner in Serie A, they will hope to be in a healthy league position come the first leg on February 20, and will eye the clash with arguably the best side in Europe as a real test of how far they have come since the start of the season.

For the likes of Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio, who are amongst the new set of faces likely to lead the Milanese charge, it will be an experience not only they can learn from but also one that they should thrive upon. If the Rossoneri are to depend on these youngsters to lead them to success in the years to come, then they can take plenty away from it and hopefully provide a few shocks along the way.

Having finished as runners-up in the group-stages, Milan will welcome the Spaniards to San Siro for the first leg. One thing that they can't afford to do is be as wasteful as they were in the first leg meeting last season, with that Robinho miss sticking out in memory. Should they have something to play for ahead of their trip to Barcelona, then there is hope.

Many will deem this as a mission impossible for Milan, but to admit defeat before the game would be impractical. The Rossoneri, and namely the players, must see this as an opportunity to start a new era at the club and restore their European pride. However, they could do with a visit from lady luck, who granted Chelsea an improbable success against Barca last season.

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

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