Monday, March 3, 2008

AC Milan vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Arsenal travel to the San Siro this Tuesday to face off against AC Milan in the return leg of their Champions League round of sixteen match up against the Champions League Champions. Arsenal failed to leverage their home advantage at the Emirates in a 0-0 draw, but the Gunners will take confidence from their dominance of the home leg.

Both teams suffered a run of disappointing results since their last clash. Milan defeated Palermo 2-1 in the Serie A before being held to 1-1 draws by both Catania Calcio and Lazio.

Arsenal have drawn both of their games since facing Milan, taking only one point each from Birmingham and Aston Villa. Arsene Wenger's squad will, though, take some confidence from the way in which they earned their draw with Villa, showing good spirit to take a point with a last-minute equalizer from Nicklas Bendtner.

The Rossoneri are up for a significant boost with rested players Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, Filippo Inzaghi and playmaker Kaka ready to return to face the Premier League leaders. Clarence Seedorf is a major doubt for the match, while Emerson and Marek Jankulovski are both out of contention.

Arsenal are facing a bit of an injury crisis with Kolo Toure, Alex Song, Johan Djourou, Eduardo, and Tomas Rosicky all to miss the match. Emmanuel Eboue, who missed the Aston Villa clash due to suspension is set to return. Robin van Persie, who has been out for most of the season with injury, has also been included in the squad, although he is not fit enough to start for the Gunners.

Manuel Almunia will start for the Gunners after putting in an impressive performance against Villa.

Bacary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Senderos, and Gael Clichy are all likely to start in defense against Milan. The back four have performed fairly admirably this season, but an own-goal from Senderos against Villa was only one of many strikes against the Swiss international in the game. Hopefully the central defender will put in a better performance against the likes of Pato and Alberto Gilardino.

The ineffective Abou Diaby will likely be replaced by Emmanuel Eboue in the midfield. Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas, and Alex Hleb will complete the Arsenal midfield which will face a tough challenge against Kaka, Pirlo, and Gennaro Gattuso.

Emmanuel Adebayor and Theo Walcott are likely to start up front, although Wenger may interchange Walcott and Hleb on the left wing and as second strikers. If van Persie is fit enough to play he will probably be used as a super-sub, while Arsenal have another option in Nicklas Bendtner.

The Gunners will face a tough test against Milan, but they have the belief necessary to come through with a determined win. I predict a 1-0 victory for the Gunners.