Monday, February 18, 2008

Arsenal vs. AC Milan: Match Preview

UEFA Champions League Champions AC Milan travel to the Emirates this Wednesday to face Premier League leaders Arsenal in a clash of giants. Arsenal will be looking to leverage their home advantage before a tough second leg at the San Siro while Milan will be searching for a few crucial away goals.

Both teams suffered disappointing results over the weekend, with Arsenal on the receiving end of a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Manchester United, while AC Milan failed to score in a boring 0-0 draw with lowly Parma. Carlo Ancelotti and Arsene Wenger will both be hoping to bounce back from their poor showings over the weekend.

Injuries to both teams will hamper their playing ability though, with Arsenal missing Robin van Persie, Johan Djourou, Denilson, and possibly Manuel Almunia, Abou Diaby, and Tomas Rosicky. Milan will be without Ronaldo, Dida and Serginho, while Pato and Zeljko Kalac are injury doubts.

Arsenal are likely to line up with Manuel Almunia in goal if he is fit, although Arsene Wenger has an able goalkeeping replacement in Jens Lehman.

Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, and Kolo Toure will make up the Gunners defensive lineup. The defense will have their hands full with last season's player of the year Kaka and important strikers Pato and Filippo Inzaghi keeping them busy.

The Gunners strength will come from their midfield, an area of the field where Cesc Fabregas and Alex Hleb will attempt to get past Gennaro Gattuso while Mathieu Flamini will try to keep Kaka and Clarence Seedorf quiet. Either Gilberto Silva or Emmanuel Eboue is likely to grab the fourth and final starting berth in midfield.

Up front top scorer Emmanuel Adebayor will be looking to score yet again. The Togo striker has already scored 19 goals in the Premier League this season, and will be looking to add to his tally against Milan. Croatian striker Eduardo is likely to join Adebayor up front, although Nicklas Bendtner may make a substitute appearance if Arsenal need more firepower against the second best defense in Italy.

Arsenal have only lost a single game at home since moving to the Emirates Stadium last season, and Milan will have a tough time breaking a record. I predict that Arsenal will win 2-0, granting the young Gunners a lead ahead of the second leg in Milan.

**Note: I will be out of town until February 26th, so this will be my last post for a little over a week**