Milan look to stop Barca

Milan look to stop Barca

Weakened Italian side faces uphill task against in-form Catalans

Milan look to stop Barca

AC Milan have been left dwelling on the past as they prepare to host Barcelona in a Champions League last-16 first leg tie on Wednesday when Lionel Messi will try to score for the Catalans for the 15th match in a row.

The Italians were forced to hold a firesale of their top players to try and balance the books at the end of last season, with striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and defender Thiago Silva among those to leave.

Alexandre Pato has also left since Milan were eliminated by the same opponents in the quarterfinals just under a year ago.

Mario Balotelli, their only marquee signing this season, is cup-tied against Barca, leaving the seven-time European champions a pale shadow of their former selves.
Things have certainly changed since Milan outclassed Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 final.
The Italians have won only one of 10 meetings since then, a 1-0 win at San Siro in 2004, and none of the last seven.

The teams have twice met in the knockout stages with Barcelona winning 3-1 on aggregate in last season’s quarterfinals and 1-0 on aggregate in the 2005/06 semifinal on their way to winning the title.

Without Balotelli, who has scored four goals in three games since his move from Manchester City, Milan’s hopes of reversing that sequence would appear to be minimal despite an impressive domestic run which has seem them climb to third in Serie A.
Four-time World Player of the Year Messi looks unstoppable for Barcelona.

Midfielder Xavi is back in the Barcelona squad after missing the last two games but David Villa will not make the trip as he is still recovering from kidney stones.

Drogba’s arrival

Galatasaray will be fired up by the arrival of Didier Drogba, last year's Champions League hero, and Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder when they host struggling Schalke 04 in Istanbul on Wednesday.

Drogba, who took the winning penalty for Chelsea in last season’s final, scored with a header five minutes into his Galatasaray debut on Friday, whetting the appetite of the 2000 UEFA Cup champions ahead of the last 16 first-leg match.

The Istanbul club’s confidence is running high after they won that game 2-1 against Akhisar Belediyespor, strengthening their lead at the top of the first division, which they lead by six points ahead of arch rivals Fenerbahce.

"It gave us a morale boost ahead of the Schalke game," said Galatasaray manager Fatih Terim.

Speaking after Friday's victory, Terim said the club's new arrivals had integrated rapidly as Galatasaray attempt to become the first Turkish side to reach the last eight since Fenerbahce five years ago.

"When he is fit, Drogba has the ability both to keep the ball for us up front and to lead the team. When you add Sneijder to that, we will perform much better. Both have integrated with the team very quickly," he said.

Schalke have been boosted by striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's recovery from an eye injury. His return could not have come at a better time for the club.

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