"If you make winning something too important, you will only end up not winning it.
"Now I point to all the trophies that I can win and if I do win the European Cup then great, and if I don’t win it then I don’t.
"And this does not diminish my career because I did everything I could."
Those are the words of Zlatan, and they are rather important at this moment. Last season’s scudetto seems to have raised expectations to a level that may or may not be obtainable. In the eyes of some Milan are building, growing towards a better future phasing out older players and grooming future stars. For others the notion and obsession of winning the CL, the so called European DNA of AC Milan, is all consuming and in turn means, as Zlatan says, you only end up not winning it. So let’s be realistic, silverware is never a given or entitlement, it is earned through effort and hard work and Milan may overcome this Arsenal test, they may not. They may win the Scudetto again, they may not, but at the end of the day I like knowing they did everything they could and readying for next year as well.
Defeating Arsenal over two legs is not impossible, not for this team. Injuries and fatigue have been the theme of the month but players are returning healthy and while they surely lack match fitness, certain players like Prince Boateng, can provide a boost in energy this team sorely needs. Both teams are suffering a dip in form, only natural for teams, some experience it early, some late, some in the middle of the season and both teams come into this tie with recent inconsistent results and inconsistent play. What once was a match-up of electric attacks and the two most in form strikers in Europe, Van Persie and Zlatan, has fizzled somewhat, but it is still pretty exciting.
We all know what happened in 2008 and for those members of the old guard still present, their stories and experiences will be shared with the players who take the field in the hope of erasing that memory. It has been a long time since Milan have defeated English opposition and I am not going to get into the EPL versus Serie A debate, or anything like that, simply put I want this win for Milan and no one else at the moment. Now winning won’t come easy, not if you consider the glut of fixtures of late, the injuries and the lack of chemistry with returning players. If you think these are non-factors or excuses, I am sorry, but they are very real and affecting the team as we speak so it will be up to Allegri to make due. Last season he employed Silva at CDM, while the crisis is not as bad this season, it is very close. My lineup:
Abbiati; Abate, Mexes, Silva, Mesbah; Urby, VanBommel, Nocerino; Prince; Zlatan, El Sharaawi.
Abbiati may or may not be match fit, so Amelia will have to step in if not. Same can be said for Nesta, and Mexes has earned the start if you ask me. If Nesta is ready and well rested, you always go with the wiley CB! Mesbah and Abate should help cope with the pace and width of Arsenal, while Urby and Nocerino can bring a bit of pace themselves. I know Urby has come under fire of late, but has done well enough at RM, and this point there are few better options on the roster that are fit. I say Prince is a must start, and while he may lack match fitness, his inclusion can spark the team with a bit of aggression and he can always be replaced with Seedorf, Ambrosini, Binho or Maxi depending on circumstance. Zlatan has to be in there, and while he underperforms in the CL, he seems to be in a right state of mind for the CL and less cocky as evidenced above. My nod for El Sharaawi is simple, playing time is earned, and is there anyone earning more than him at the moment. Robinho is in a terrible run of form, and Pato is a liability, so let the Little Pharaoh do his thing. That is until of course Berlu sends down the team sheet, but we will leave that discussion for another day…
Back tomorrow with a little Q&A with a special guest, and then it is showtime...