Milan hoping 'monster' Messi has another off-night
AC MILAN vice-president Adriano Galliani is hoping that Barcelona's "monster" has a night off at the Nou Camp tonight as the Rossoneri bid to protect their two-goal Champions League lead.
Lionel Messi has scored 40 league goals this season but the Argentinian has been a little more subdued in Europe, registering only five times and, more importantly, failing to notch a vital away goal at the San Siro.
But Galliani knows the three-time Ballon d'Or winner will be the spearhead of any Barca comeback in the last-16 second-leg clash.
"We can't go into the game thinking we'll be fine just because we've got a two-goal advantage," he said.
"We are going up against the strongest team in the world, who have a monster like Leo Messi, who scores all the time.
"One thing is certain – it will be another great challenge, an infinitely difficult challenge. It's always nice to play Barcelona but we will be going into an incredibly heated atmosphere."
Milan will be without their own talismanic forward Giampaolo Pazzini.
News that Pazzini – who has 13 Serie A goals to his name this term – had suffered a hairline fracture to his fibula during last Friday's league win at Genoa was not the confidence boost Milan were looking for.
However, Galliani remains confident that a pool of Stephan El Shaarawy, M'Baye Niang, Robinho and former Barca striker Bojan Krkic will succeed in Catalonia.
With Mario Balotelli ineligible, 20-year-old El Shaarawy, who has scored a team-high 16 goals in Serie A this season, is expected to lead the attack.
The Rossoneri also have concerns over the fitness of French defender Philippe Mexes, who could be replaced by Mattia De Sciglio, but first-leg goalscorers Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari are cleared to start in midfield.
"We will have to play better than we did in the first leg to go through," said Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.
Inspirational captain Massimo Ambrosini described it as "still a 50-50" tie, even if it feels like a 60-40 shot for the visitors.
"Last year we beat Arsenal 4-0 and nearly got knocked out in the second leg," he mused.
For all that caution, this Milan side, full of youthful vim and experienced vigour, are ready to be convincing spoilers and claim a place in the quarter-finals despite the best efforts of Messi and his team-mates.