Champions League – AC Milan v Barcelona
Is everyone going overboard about Barcelona? Of course, the defending Champions League champions are a terrific side and, in Lionel Messi, they have the world’s most exciting player. The Argentinian became Barca’s all-time record goalscorer last week and journalists are running out of superlatives to describe his talents, and it’s not as if Barcelona are a one-man team. A midfield which contains Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Javier Mascherano is the envy of most clubs and the Catalans have sauntered into the last eight of this season’s competition having won all eight matches so far.
Messi was at his mercurial best in the last round against Bayer Leverkusen, scoring five times at the Nou Camp as his team completed a 10-2 aggregate win over the hapless Germans and they’ve already beaten quarter-final opponents AC Milan at the San Siro in the group stages, albeit narrowly. However, it’s never wise to write off Italian sides when it comes to the latter stages of European competitions and the Rossoneri may well be a decent bet to upset the holders on home soil in the first leg.
Milan almost blew a four-goal advantage against Arsenal at the Emirates in the last 16 but it may be that they simply went to North London in the wrong frame of mind having done all the hard work in Italy. Zlatan Ibrahmovic was almost unplayable at the San Siro and is a real threat when in the mood. The same can probably be said of Brazilian Robinho and they are backed up by a midfield and defence that will be well drilled and pose the biggest threat so far this season to Barca’s European dominance. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that Barcelona had slipped up away from home in the away leg of a Champions League tie and Milan are 7/2 to grab a lead to take to Spain, though Barcelona should still qualify for the semi-finals at 1/5. The Italians are 6/4 to score first in the tie.