Milan aims to end English superiority
ROME ELIMINATIONS by English clubs have become a curse that AC Milan aim to end when they take on Arsenal in the round of 16 of the Champions League.
The first leg takes place on Wednesday at the San Siro and the Serie A champions is full of confidence after ending a poor domestic run with a 2- 1 victory at Udinese which put them top of the table.
”This could be the turning point of our season,” said Massimiliano Allegri after a success that followed defeats to Lazio and, in the Italian Cup, to Juventus. The young coach looks now to end a broader negative trend in the top European tournament, where the Rossoneri crashed against English sides on all three occasions in the round of 16 since lifting their seventh European trophy in 2007.
Arsenal themselves opened Milan’s poor sequence in March 2008 with a 2-0 win at the Giuseppe Meazza, following a scoreless draw in the first leg. Further knock-out exits from the elite tournament came in 2010 against Manchester United, who beat the Devils 3-2 in Milan and drubbed them 4-0 at home, and, last year, from a 1-0 aggregate defeat to Tottenham.
For the superstitious, the eliminations sounded like retribution for Milan, who in 2007 got to the semifinals along with three premier League sides, eliminating Manchester and then beating Liverpool 2-1 in the Athens final. An admittedly superstitious fan is vice president Adriano Galliani, who will most likely wear one of his glaring yellow ties at the game. He appears to have begun wearing them as good omen at big games since the 2003 Champions League final won on penalties against Juventus.
As tension builds up before the game, support also came from Barbara Berlusconi, the daughter of club owner Silvio Berlusconi and fiancee of Brazil striker Pato, who this week showed up at the team’s camp in her capacity of board member.
On the pitch, much is expected from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is well rested after serving a Serie A suspension, and from the just recovered Pato, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Alessandro Nesta and Christian Abbiati.
Ibra, who is Milan’s top scorer in the Serie A on 15 goals, took a relaxed attitude toward the Champions League, a trophy he has never lifted despite winning seven national titles in the Netherlands, Italy and Spain.
”Years ago, the Champions League was my first goal,” Ibra said. ”But if you make it too big or make it too important, you end up never winning it.”