First Knockout round – 2nd leg (First leg: Arsenal 0-0 Milan)
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti sees the return of several big-name players as a cause for optimism as he prepares his side to face Arsenal in the San Siro. The first legat the Emirates stadium a fortnight ago finished goalless, leaving both teams confident of progressing to the last eight.
Milan have struggled in Serie A this season and are currently four points adrift of fourth-placed Fiorentina – with qualification for next season’s Champions League in the balance. However, last year, a disappointing league campaign was accompanied by a seventh European Champion Cup success.
“It is difficult to explain why we play better in the Champions League other than to say that this competition has always meant something extra special to this club,” said Ancelotti.
“We’ve been through a sticky patch over recent games. We’ve had to get by without a number of players, but the fact most of them are back and have worked really well in training gives me the belief that they’ll give another great performance.”
Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, Kaká and Filippo Inzaghi are all expected to start after being rested against Lazio at the weekend, although Clarence Seedorf, who strained a hamstring in that match, may join Emerson, Marek Jankulovski, Dida and Ronaldo on the sidelines.
Milan won all three group-stage games at home in the autumn, and knockout-stage victories here against Celtic, Bayern Munich and Manchester United last season have encouraged Ancelotti.
“It is not by chance that we’ve always done well at home when we’ve had to,” he said. “We always manage to play with the right attitude in these knockout situations. Nil-nil is a result which needs to be managed intelligently – we must call on all our skill and experience, we mustn’t rush anything. In all our previous successes we managed to control the match. Patience is the key.”
Arsenal know an away goal could be enought to see them through. Injuries have deprived them of Eduardo, Tomas Rosicky and Kolo Touré. However, Abou Diaby is fit again and Robin van Persie has travelled with the squad.
“We are highly focused, team spirit is very high and we believe we can do it,” said Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.
“This is a young team we have, but the foundations were laid two years ago when we went to the Santiago Bernabéu, to Juventus and we played Barcelona.
“These are the sort of matches that every player wants to play, and I believe what counts is to know that your side has the necessary quality to win these games. I am confident these players have the qualities to win.”