Selasa, 18 Oktober 2011

Champions League Group H preview: Barca, Milan aim to consolidate

Barcelona and AC Milan can move six points clear in the top two spots in Champions League Group H with victories on Wednesday.
The La Liga champions host Czech side Viktoria Plzen, while the Serie A outfit welcome BATE Borisov, the Belarusian champions.

The Catalans have had their fair share of injury worries early in the season and hampering them further will be the loss of centre-back Gerard Pique for two weeks to a hamstring injury.

Pique was substituted just nine minutes into their league clash with Racing Santander on Sunday, forcing Eric Abidal to play out the majority of the contest despite being under a fitness cloud himself.

It has been a while since Czech opposition have visited the Camp Nou - so much so, that current manager Pep Guardiola was on the scoresheet for Barcelona in a 5-0 victory over Sparta Prague in the 1999-2000 group stages.

Despite the result being a decade ago, Guardiola will be hoping for a similar scoreline as Barca look to go six points clear of the bottom two and move a step closer to the knockout stages.

Milan will have similar hopes as they prepare to welcome Borisov to the San Siro.

Borisov's domestic form has been steady as they have not lost in seven games, but the gulf in class between their home league and the Champions League was evidenced by Barcelona's 5-0 thrashing of them at their last start.

The Belarusians have experienced the pressure of playing Milan previously, going down 6-0 on aggregate in the UEFA Cup first round in 2001-02.

Featuring on the pitch that day were current coach Vikto Goncharenko and assistants Aleksandr Fedorovich and Aleksei Baga.

The only current-day player in the side that day was attacker Artem Kontsevoy.

Milan, however, will not be worried about history as they look to continue their form which has seen them win three of their past four.

Their home form in Champions League past seasons has been woeful, winning just one of eight in their two most recent campaigns before a 2-0 win over Plzen steadied the ship.

Brazilian striker Robinho returned to the Milan line-up in their 3-0 win over Palermo, adding a new dimension to their attack, and the former Santos and Manchester City star will be in contention to keep his spot under Massimiliano Allegri.

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