VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: AC Milan Vs Barcelona (2-0), Leg 1, Last-16 Champions League
By Greg Robertson
Hello and welcome to the San Siro where we have AC Milan hosting Spain’s Barcelona in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League 2013 last-16 match.
There’s one man the world is watching – Lionel Messi. And you can be sure that AC Milan will be hoping he doesn’t fire today or, somehow, they are able to shut him down.
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LIVE COMMENTARY... AC Milan 2 - 0 Barcelona
FULLTIME - AC Milan produce the upset and win 2-0. ALL VIDEO UP.
90+3 MINS: Both goal scorers for Milan were once Portsmouth players. Just not Barcelona's day here, nothing really working out for them but to be fully fair it's the Milan defence that has squeezed them out of this match. Iniesta wins a free kick. They go short and Messi loses the ball.
90 MINS: How much added time? It's not been mentioned... oh five minutes!
86 MINS: Milan now with bodies behind the ball as Barca searches for a vital away goal. El Shaarawy off as Milan brings defenders on. Top effort from the 20-year-old.
81 MINS: Barca win a free kick not far outside the box and Xavi fires it over the bar. No real danger. Wow.... this is a massive result if it stays this way. El Shaarawy lobbed it over for Muntari to volley it come. Great goal. VIDEO UP
77 MINS: Iniesta with a smidgen of room and lets loose with a long-range effort from his right boot. Just... just, wide. VIDEO UP .
72 MINS: Pedro trying another 'nuts' but that's just poor football at this stage when the simple ball was the better option. Messi gets it, off to Xavi but that passing lane is sealed off again. Credit to the Milan defence.
68 MINS: There was a short break as both players were attended too and you can expect a decent whack of added time at the end of this match. Puyol is still getting bandaged up.;
65 MINS: Barcelona lifting the intensity. About time some would say. Milan players tucking inside their half getting bodies behind the ball and between it and their own net. Puyol and Pazzini in a headclash and some claret might leak from this one. VIDEO UP
61 MINS: Well that's thrown the Catalans amongst the pigeons, hasn't it? Fabregas makes way for Sanchez as Barcelona search for an answer. A Lionel Messi mis-guided free kick sums up his side's night so far.... not good.
57 MINS: El Shaarawy gets his legs taken out now. This game going through a nasty phase but it's Milan with the opportunity... GOAL! Boateng tucks it away. They (Constant) took the free kick short, and Montolivo fired it in and it looked to hit a hand before falling to Boateng to finish inside the penalty area. VIDEO UP .
54 MINS: Iniesta glides through a forest of legs and then is brought down. Barcelona with a chance here... and now is Sergio Busquets who gets carded for sliding in after an errant Barca pass... a wee bit harsh to see colour.
51 MINS: When one Milan player is beaten another seems to appear. The question is can they keep this up for 90 minutes? Alves with a good run... now Messi, crowded out. Alba has a close encounter with Boateng's elbow.
49 MINS: Some good play from Pedro who shouts, "Nuts" on his way past, off to Iniesta and he's fouled. Barcelona starts the build up again as they search for their mojo.
46 MINS: Second spell underway... will we see a Barcelona that is amping a little more this half? Fans will hope so.
Halftime: 0 - 0. Barcelona with very little in the way of efforts on goal. Milan with the slight edge in chances.
45 MINS: Zapata uses his excellent pace down the right edge and puts in a good cross that Victor Valdes has to get down to.
43 MINS: Milan keeper Christian Abbiati gets his hands on the ball and gives it a big cuddle. He's missed the ball this half, and that says a lot about the Barcelona attack in this first half... not quite stale, but yet not sharp either.
38 MINS: El Shaarawy nearly finds himself in behind the Barca defence. VIDEO UP
33 MINS: Barcelona just trying to position the chess pieces on the edge of the area but play breaks down. It's very tight in there. El Shaarawy is on the move from the break but Busquets slows things by clipping Muntari's heals. Here's comes a right-footed in-swinger towards the goal...falls to Boateng but bodies block his shot.
30 MINS: Half an hour gone and Messi a little frustrated with life centre pitch and has shifted toward the right-hand touchline to have a crack down the edge. He's in hunt of a soft spot in the Milan defence.
27 MINS: Messi really clever to get around Constant there with a mini-chip and go to himself. Constant came back at him but that is worth watching. VIDEO UP .
25 MINS: Philippe Mexes reaches in on Messi and he gets a yellow card for his trouble. Rightly so too. Iniesta gone back into the midfield and Cesc playing a little higher now but this is a slower Barca than what we're used to. Iniesta finds Xavi who brings it down into the box and back heals it to the penalty spot but there's no Barca yellow and orange shirts about. That was the most sustained period of possession for Barcelona to date.
21 MINS: Milan the stronger of the two teams right now, but you get that feeling that Barcelona are just lying in wait... and about to pounce. Not at full tilt yet and it would be fair to say playing within themselves. Iniesta on the edge, off to Fabregas, loses control and reaches in and is rightly penalised. Milan to clear.
16 MINS: Lovely flick sends El Shaarawy and he dribbles, at pace into the area... ohh... his touch was a bit strong as he goes on goal. Boateng then just wide after a swift set piece of work from the corner. Props to Puyol for bailing out Barcelona prior. Good stuff from Milan. VIDEO UP .
15 MINS: Very crowed in the Milan half with the distance from the back four to the midfield maybe about 10 yards. Makes it hard to play a ball through so it will have to be some Barca sparkle that works it through.
12 MINS: Alves puts one in and it's off side (Pedro), lucky for AC Milan as Mexes this time climbed high only to get a thick arm to it.
10 MINS: A couple of corners from Barcelona come to nothing and then it's Milan on the break. And that's the danger for Barca, is Milan, maybe through Stephan El Shaarawy and his pace.
9 MINS: Barcelona yet to offer a threat. They are now pushing higher and Fabregas on to Alba and he tries to find Pedro but a big stretch from Mexes' right boot extinguishes any danger.
6 MINS: First strike at goal is from Milan's Muntari who waited on a ball and volleyed it as it dropped. It was dipping, but not fast enough. VIDEO UP . A delayed rising of the flag then catches Al Shaarawy offside.
5 MINS: Very - and I mean very - slow start to the match with Barcelona trying to be very, very precise. Messi and Busquets with a great wee combination as Barcelona tries to work their way into the penalty area. Think classical barcelona, with one-touch passing, back heels, no look passes and plenty of running off the ball and you have that sequence summed up.
2 MINS: You can't stop Barcelona but can you limit the damage? As we get things underway and it's Barcelona with the ball and accurate with passes to start, to just keep the possession. Turnover, and it's Muntari picking off the first pass and that's what they need to do.
Both teams out on the pitch, captains doing the toss and not far until the off...
Soaking in the Champs League anthem here at the San Siro. Crowd making a noise and they will need to lift their side with Barcelona the overwhelming favourites to thunder a few into the back of the net.
Plenty of travelling fans supporting the Barca side as we count down until kick off. Lads in the stands, seeing their moment on tv, kissing the Barca badge and giving it the shake of power.
Kick off in a little over 15 minutes...
The teams are in...
Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Constant, Montolivo, Ambrosini, Muntari, Boateng, Wl Shaarawy, Pazzing.
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, J. Alba, Xavi, Cesc, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro.
Some classic banter, generalisation and fairly obvious - you'd have to say - football fodder from Barcelona's Carles Puyol: "Our target is that they don't score and, in contrast, we'll try to score - this will be perfect, but there's another team on the pitch. But to keep a clean sheet and score will be very good."
It's just a little over 40 minutes until kick off, and about 23 minutes until we get live pictures from the ground. Question: Which other club in the world would you like to see Messi play for? Who would he fit in with best? Why?
Well here we are at San Siro and there's plenty of interest in this one. Messi is in some fine form as he has gone down in the history books, netting his 300th goal for the club against Granada just a few days ago. And what are the rumours of Lionel Messi heading to Manchester United? Errr there aren't any, but I'm sure the world would like to see the best player have a stint in England.
Kick off is not far away so in the meantime watch Lionel Messi score his 300th goal for Barcelona against Granada. This video will be removed once the game gets underway.
AC Milan: 32-Christian Abbiati; 20-Ignazio Abate, 17-Mario Yepes, 5-Philippe Mexes, 21-Kevin Constant; 8-Antonio Nocerino, 10-Kevin-Prince Boateng, 18-Riccardo Montolivo, 4-Sulley Muntari; 11-Giampaolo Pazzini, 92-Stephan El Shaaraway.
Barcelona: 1-Victor Valdes; 2-Dani Alves, 3-Gerard Pique, 5-Carles Puyol, 18-Jordi Alba; 6-Xavi, 16-Sergio Busquets, 8-Andres Iniesta; 4-Cesc Fabregas, 10-Lionel Messi, 17-Pedro.
After climbing doggedly back up the Serie A table, the true test of AC Milan's revival will come against Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League today.
Milan had an awful start to the season and, lying 15th in the Serie A after eight matches, seemed to be heading for a relegation fight rather than a title battle.
However, Milan has since climbed to third - although it is still 11 points behind leader Juventus.
And when you speak of glamorous ties, as has been the case of late with Real Madrid and Manchester United doing battle at the same stage of the competition, this one is right up there – if not as, or more glamorous.
Milan has won the European Cup on seven occasions and they are up against a Barcelona unit that is arguably – or at least right up there with – the best of the best sides in football history.
Barcelona poses Milan's sternest test yet. It commands a healthy double-digit lead in the Spanish league and is well on course to recover the domestic title. That means it can devote all its attention to Europe's top competition as it searches for its fourth title in eight seasons.
"We're doing well at the moment," midfielder Riccardo Montolivo said. "I've grown and the team has grown compared to beginning of season, and the match comes at the best time. We know we're facing the best team in world, with the best players in the world. We know it's going to be tough but we can't wait to get on the pitch because it will be a great match and a great test for us to measure ourselves against them."
Milan will be underdogs against a Barcelona side which has lost only twice all season in the league and in Europe.
It will be the fifth time the two teams meet in the Champions League at San Siro and Milan has only won one of those encounters, in the group stage in the 2004-05 season.
It is also the fifth time the two sides have met in two seasons. After a draw and a win for Barcelona in the group stages last year, Massimiliano Allegri's team held the Spanish side to an entertaining goalless draw at San Siro in the first leg of the quarterfinal before succumbing 3-1 at the Camp Nou.
"We know they're the strongest team in the world at the moment and we know what difficulties we're going to face," Allegri said. "Against big teams like Milan, Real Madrid, they dominate possession, they have an average of 65 percent possession, we have to try to be good and limit that statistic. We have to be good when we have the ball because Barca defensively will concede something."
Milan is still waiting on the fitness of top scorer Stephan El Shaarawy, who has been the club's most prolific and active player this season with more than 2,000 minutes of game time yielding 17 goals.
El Shaarawy came off in the draw against Cagliari with a knee injury but is back in training and Milan is hopeful the 20-year-old Italian will be fit to start.
"El Shaarawy is back in the group, training," Allegri said. "I'll decide after practice what's the best formation to start with. If he's fine, he'll start."
It will be special for Milan striker Bojan Krkic, who progressed through the ranks at Barcelona, scoring 41 goals in 163 appearances.
Mario Balotelli, who has netted four goals in three matches since his tumultuous Manchester City career ended last month, will not be eligible to play because he has already represented his former club in the competition.
Barcelona will have Lionel Messi, however.
"He is a key player for the team, because of what he brings and has to offer, goals, because he is decisive," Barcelona striker Pedro Rodriguez said. "If he isn't there, you notice it. But I don't think we suffer from a dependence on Messi.
"This is a very strong team and while some players stand out, you have to recognise that Messi has gone beyond any other player. He is a key player with a great ambition, someone who wants to do better each day that goes by. We are dealing with numbers that you couldn't imagine."
Milan owner and former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi believes the club should man mark the four-time Ballon d'Or winner, who has scored a phenomenal 48 goals for Barcelona in all competitions this season.
"Clearly he changes games, but we can't forget about (Andres) Iniesta, we have to keep an eye on both of them," Allegri said. "They are both extraordinary players. Other than scoring goals, Iniesta is the top man for assists. We have to limit their talents."
Milan midfielder Riccardo Montolivo says the game has arrived when his side is at a peak.
"The match arrives as we are in our best moment. We know that we are playing against the best squad in the world, with the best players in the world. We are aware of the difficulties we are going to face tomorrow. But we are looking forward to playing this match, it's a great match to play in and we want to face this strong opponent,” says Montolivo.
Xavi Hernandez is ready to play after being sidelined for the last two weeks with a left calf injury. Striker David Villa, however, did not make the squad after spending last week in and out of the hospital with a painful case of kidney stones. Defender Adriano will also miss the game with a right leg injury.
Assistant coach Jordi Roura will be on the sideline with coach Tito Vilanova receiving treatment in New York after having a second tumor in two years removed from his neck in December. Without Vilanova, Barcelona has avoided a major dip in form.
Barcelona’s assistant manager Jordi Roura is wary of Milan.
"Milan are the most successful team (in terms of titles) in Europe, with an impressive pedigree. It's a good squad, they're playing in their stadium. It's very difficult to play at their home, and I reminded my players that we've always suffered against Milan. So it's a great eliminator, with two big teams. There's no single favourite because we have to wait until the return match.