UEFA Champions League Preview: Arsenal v AC Milan

By IndepthAfrica
In Soccer
Mar 5th, 2012
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Arsène Wenger accepts his side only have a “5% chance” of overturning a four-goal deficit against AC Milan but has urged Arsenal FC “not to share the scepticism” but “to believe”

Arsenal FC manager Arsène Wenger may be without a host of injured players and in need of a remarkable comeback, but the Frenchman is refusing to throw in the towel and is adamant his team will look to seize their “5% chance” of overcoming AC Milan. The Rossoneri, meanwhile do not want to fall into the trap of complacency, with coach Massimiliano Allegri wary of a side who have “nothing to lose”.

Arsenal
Manager Arsène Wenger
We’ll put out the best possible team to qualify. We want to have a real go and make it possible. Of course we will have to drive forward. The best way is to ignore the first game – we can score goals. In the last two home [Premier League] games we scored 12, so we know we can.

I know my players well. I know they have been hurt by the first result and I know they have pride and they will come out tomorrow and give a different performance. There is a real possibility, of course. Football is football. We lost 4-0 at Milan, but we had five shots on target and we had 55% possession. Why not? At least we will try.

It is important we believe we can do it, and your belief is stronger when your recent results have been good. It is important we don’t share the scepticism and have a strong belief, and tomorrow night show we have enough belief to make what looks impossible, possible.

Even if they score, we have to ignore it and keep going. We have to gamble and we have to go forward, we know that. I don’t live in a dream world. I know it is not an easy situation. But when you are a top-level competitor, even if statistically we have maybe a 5% chance, what is important is that we believe. Let’s make sure we do not miss our chance because we do not believe.

Weekend result
Saturday: Liverpool FC 1-2 Arsenal (Koscielny og 23; Van Persie 31 90+2)
Szczęsny; Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Rosický, Arteta (Diaby 53, Oxlade-Chamberlain 81), Song; Benayoun (Gervinho 74), Van Persie, Walcott.

• Wojciech Szczęsny saved Dirk Kuyt’s 19th-minute penalty as Arsenal claimed a fourth successive league win. Robin van Persie scored both the goals, taking his tally to 25 in the Premier League in 2011/12 – indeed, the Gunners have scored 55 goals in 27 league games this term, two more than they had at the same stage during the ‘Invincibles’ season of 2003/04.

Team news
Abou Diaby (hamstring), Mikel Arteta (concussion) and Yossi Benayoun (hamstring) have all been ruled out with injuries sustained at Anfield. Kieran Gibbs (unspecified) should be fit but Tomáš Rosický (groin) faces a late fitness test. Arsenal’s injury list also includes André Santos (ankle), Sébastien Squillaci (groin), Aaron Ramsey (ankle), Johan Djourou (thigh), Francis Coquelin (hamstring), Per Mertesacker (ankle) and Jack Wilshere (ankle).

Milan
Coach Massimiliano Allegri
We know how English football and English teams play. It’s important to have the right approach, the right concentration and pace. I’m sure they will try to up the tempo and the first minutes will be crucial. I think we will play a great match, because we have a great chance to reach the quarter-finals. It’s just important for us to qualify. It’s not about winning. Obviously we need to try to find goals because if we score, the match will change.

When you’re playing in the last 16 of the Champions League in London against Arsenal, despite being 4-0 up, I would never expect my team to relax. In football you never know what might happen – so we need to forget the first game and focus on qualifying for the next round.

They will be a different team to the one in the first leg. They will try everything because they have nothing to lose. After the defeat by us they have played some excellent matches – just look at what they did against Tottenham and against Liverpool on Saturday.

These games bring a lot of motivation. We have a great chance to make it to the final for the first time in five years. We need to approach this match in exactly the same way we did the first game. It’s such a crucial target for us to reach the quarter-finals so we can go all the way in this competition. There is nothing wrong with thinking we can go all the way.

Weekend result
Saturday: US Città di Palermo 0-4 Milan (Ibrahimović 21 31 35, Thiago Silva 58)
Abbiati; Abate, Bonera, Thiago Silva, Antonini (Mesbah 46); Nocerino, Ambrosini, Muntari, Emanuelson (El Shaarawy 54); Ibrahimović, Robinho (Inzaghi 82).

• Zlatan Ibrahimović marked his return from a three-match league ban (just as Philippe Mexès started a similar suspension) with his first hat-trick for the Rossoneri as Milan claimed their first Serie A win at Palermo in six seasons. The Sweden striker has scored 21 goals in his last 21 club appearances.

Team news
Clarence Seedorf and Kevin-Prince Boateng have not played since suffering thigh injuries in the first leg against Arsenal. Maxi López (calf), Pato (thigh), Alessandro Nesta (thigh) and Alexander Merkel (knee) are also out but Alberto Aquilani (ankle) may feature after two training sessions, though Allegri doubts his abililty to last 90 minutes.

Match fact
Arsenal have prevailed only twice in ten UEFA competition ties after losing the away first leg, defeating HNK Hajduk Split (1978/79 UEFA Cup second round, 1-0 at home) and FC Porto at this stage of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League (5-0 at home), both after 2-1 away losses. UEFA

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