There is no better way to kick off the Group Stage of the UEFA Champions League than 2 legendary teams in a legendary stadia. Barcelona and AC Milan are the featured attraction in Matchday one at the venerable Nou Camp in Barcelona. The Blaugarnas are the defending title holders and have been crowned kings of Europe 2 out of the last 3 campaigns. The Rossoneri have lifted the trophy with big ears 7 times, second only to Real Madrid’s 9 titles.
Both teams are expected to finish atop of Group H, however a win for either side will give them a huge advantage within the Group and place them in a better draw in the knockout stage.
Milan were dealt a blow however when it was announced that striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was ruled out of Tuesday’s match due to an adductor injury suffered in training on Monday. The Italian side will also miss the enigmatic Robhino due to a knock and veteran striker Pippo Inzaghi was left off the Champions League roster.
Manager Massimiliano Allegri will use Alexandre Pato and Antonio Cassano as the partnership up front. The midfield is a solid unit led by skipper Gennaro Gatuso who will have to use his physical strength to slow down the flashy Barcelona attackers. Newly acquired Alberto Aquilani who comes over from Liverpool on loan, can provide a multi-faceted game and will be a main cog in the Milan engine. Kevin-Prince Boateng is another valuable member who must be at his best for Milan.
The back four is led by Thiago Silva who can be used as a winger along the flank. However he must be responsible at all times so that he doesn’t leave a gaping hole for Barcelona to exploit. I only see Silva becoming a winger on counter attacks and play back for most of the game.
Barcelona meanwhile are coming off a lacklustre 2-2 draw with Real Socieadad and are wanting to put that performance behind them. They will miss the services of midfielder Alexis Sanchez who is sidelined for the next 8 weeks with a thigh injury. However the Catalans have depth in the midfield and should make proper adjustments in their tactics. Xavi and Andreas Iniesta still patrol the central midfield while Cesc Fabregas watches over the flank. With Pedro, David Villa, and the incomparable Lionel Messi up front, look for Barcelona to attack from all ends with precision and force.
Prediction: Matchday one is never easy to predict however with the game at Nou Camp and injuries hurting Milan, I see Barcelona starting off the Champions League with a 3-1 victory delighting the near 100,000 supporters.