Wednesday 15 February 2012

High temperatures in cold Milan.

A.C.Milan vs The Arsenal FC
Date: 16th August, 0115hrs IST
Venue: San Siro(Milan, Italy)

So, we play our first leg of the Champions league knock out stage, after Barcelona beat Bayern Leverkusen with 3 away goals and just one against them & Lyon got through their home leg with one goal against APOEL. No surprising results, some might have even predicted it. The real test is tonight, and no matter how much you predict, or speculate, in the end the team performances, their resilience will decide the result.

Lot of people have talked about the game and about being ready for the challenge. TV, Kos, AW have all laid the ground work. Sure you have your strategies against the opponent, you might try to look at their recent performances, which definitely helps, but the pitch is a completely different world.
Vermaelen assures about his knowledge about Ibrahimovic's qualities, having been teammates with him at Ajax, he says,
I know his qualities, like everybody does. I played against him a few times, like when he was at Barcelona, so I know he is a strong and technical player, one of their main players. It is up to us as defenders to keep him quiet tomorrow.
Arsenal would not have forgotten him so soon, having seen him during our Champions League match against Barcelona, last season. Arsene is a huge fan of him, and has heaped praises on his qualities, 
He is a great player, if you look at his record, at what he has won, he has his own personality based on a strong belief in himself.
Arsene's praise is not just in words, he has been a huge admirer of the player and tried to sign him, before he signed for Ajax and he further went on to be one of the most lethal strikers in the world.

Arsene has referenced Milan's loss against Rottenham, last year, for potential problems and weaknesses that Arsenal can take advantage of. Adding to that, Milan might be top of the Serie A, however, their recent performances have been poor. Their last league game against Udinese, where they came back from being a goal down to winning the game 2-1, almost identical to Arsenal's game against Sunderland, speaks about their mental strength and something Arsenal has to take note of.

An away goal can be a major confidence booster, and surely Arsenal won't hold back on attacking them, our focus can't deter from defending well. Any goal(s) against us will only add to the pressure on the second leg and might affect the performance. Although, the comeback against Sunderland suggests differently. Let's hope we keep the same mental strength.

As far as team news is concerned, apparently, Per had some surgery on his ankle, and there is still no confirmation regarding the seriousness of the injury. Arsene confirmed,
 He had reconstruction of his ankle in Germany before he joined us and the scan did not look too positive yesterday. Last night he went back to Germany to speak to the specialist and see where we go from there.
If he is out for as long as Santos, then his season might well be over. It will be such a huge blow for the team, considering our options in defense. Yes, I know I have been critical of him for his pace but he has had a calming influence at the back and the number of goals scored against us this season do not do justice to his performance. Still, we will have TV and Kos partnering the defense. Any more injuries and we will be looking at Djourou in defense, who looked good last season, but his injury record is still worrying, which means we will be left with Squillaci.

Arsene has said that Gibbs is ready physically and mentally to make a return, but there were reports that suggested that he had still to make a final decision on it. Frankly speaking, I think that if Gibbs has recovered from injury then there should be no reason why he shouldn't play. I don't think there are any problems with his fitness. Gervinho has not been named in the 18-man squad to face Milan, so either we play Arshavin or The Ox. If you ask me, we should start with The Ox, and he doesn't look like a player who is belittled by the occasion, however, like I said yesterday, knowing Arsene it would be very unlike him to start with the youngster. If Arshavin can make the same kind of impact,coming off the bench, he had against Sunderland then all the more good for us. Walcott will definitely start on the right. Apart from that, I think, we will be playing the same midfield that played in the last game. Rosicky has looked good with his performance so he should start. If Ramsey, like Arshavin, has the same impact he had against Sunderland then we look much stronger. How do we forget TH14, sure he will start on the bench, but you can always count on him to make the last 20-30 minutes very interesting and have a good go at the Milan defense.

The most important things to come out better from this leg would be:
-Clean sheet
-Away goal(s)
-No injuries/suspensions

You just have that feeling that with this being TH14's last game of this loan spell, this is going to be a very special night, and he would want to leave the team and the fans in good spirits and on a high.

-Arsene teases
-Some words of caution
-Jack to be back soon?
-Arteta raring to go
-Be careful what you wish for!

Tonight's matches:
Milan                      Italy vs England Arsenal
Zenit St. Petersburg Russia vs Portugal Benfica
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