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Wednesday Milan Musings: Let's Talk CL

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In two days’ time the big wigs of UEFA will congregate to determine the next round match-ups of the UEFA Champions League. We all know quite well this random pot drawing is the cornerstone of credibility and in no way would UEFA attempt to designate these match-ups for the benefit of wealth, marketing and business. So with that said, let’s explores Milan's options and why some match-ups are far better than others.

As many of you know, Milan did not win the group, and to the victor go the spoils so Milan is in the proverbial pot 2, or losers bracket as I like to call it, and can be drawn against the following: APOEL, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real, Benfica and Bayern. Barca and Inter are off the list because you can’t be drawn against someone from your group or association, in this case Serie A. So let’s take a closer look at each team and see where our best chance of advancing out of the first KO round for the first time since 2007, when we were in fact crowned Champions.

Chelsea

Andres Vilas Boas, or AVB, is yet another Coach with the unenviable task of following in the footsteps of the Special One. The Chelsea brass were tired of Mourinho’s shadow, so went ahead and hired his former assistant and a guy who basically followed the same path as Jose, except he never won the CL, nor Coached on the big stage, you should have stuck with Carletto, Roman! Mistake or not, the deal is done, and the young Coach is left in charge of one of the most inconsistent teams in the EPL. Studs like Drogba, Lampard, and Terry are in their twilight and winning now has never been more pressing. Big money buys like David Luiz and Torres, are looking more and more like busts, and if anyone can honestly watch David Luiz and say he is a good player, or wants him anywhere near their team, I would question them immediately. Frankly, I like our chances against this team, a leaky defense and a Leo-esque 4-3-3 give me faith that Allegri can come out on top on this one.

Verdict: Bring on the Blues!

APOEL

I am sure every casual fan says, “I hope we draw APOEL.” I say no thank you, the Cyprian Champions play a perplexing brand of football and while they do nothing exceptionally well, they present a unique challenge to any Club because of their attitude and tactical desire to play a prevention game instead of a reactive game. In the past Milan have been troubled by teams like this, and it has been a test of their patience more than anything else. Not the worst draw but not the best draw either, dealing with a ten man defense for 180 minutes doesn't sound appealing.

Verdict: Would rather not be the victim of a park the bus underdog upset.

Arsenal

NO THANK YOU. Is there any player playing better than Robin Van Persie at the moment? If you don’t think so, take the blinders off. His goal against Everton was out of this World, and even more amazing was the pass from Alexander Song to make the goal possible. Arsenal has shed this burning need to play pretty football and have instead shifted to playing results orientated football. Turning around a dismal start in the EPL into an 8 game unbeaten streak taking 22 points out of a possible 24. Safe to say no player is hotter than RvP at the moment and no team is hotter in all of Europe. I don’t want a repeat of 08, give me Arsenal, but not until the Final.

Verdict: No reason to play chicken with a steam roller.

Real

This rendition of Jose’s Real is the best yet. The work rate of everyone has improved, and there is a balance to the squad that was not present in year’s past. They came up short against Barca on the weekend, but it wasn’t a lack of class to be clear, this is not a team I want to lock horns with, but also not mission impossible. Sad thing about the CL is at some point if you want to win it, you have to play the best!

Verdict: Not going to welcome them with open arms, but not cowering in fear either.

Benfica

Personally, I like this match up for Milan. Undefeated in the group, but their only real challenge was a wounded Man United, and only two draws to show for it. Yes they are tied atop the Portugese league, and Milan have had trouble with Portugese teams in the past, but they are youngish team missing some of the hardened experience needed to win a KO round of the CL, not to mention their roster gets thin rather quickly and will play to Milan's advantage come the new year. Many will wait patiently to watch Milan target Alex Witsel but let's not get ahead of ourselves, best he be subdued early.

Verdict: A-OK with this match-up.

Bayern

Past history between the Clubs gives Milan the edge, but Bayern, like Milan are a bit of a sleeping giant. Having lost to Inter a few years back in the final, the team has reshaped and reformed and are beginning to fire once again on all cylinders. Not as stout and resolute as they once have been, and also not a shoe in for Bundesliga Title either, they are in the midst of finding their new identity. They currently sit top of the table, but on a slender 3 point lead, they may run out of gas before the KO round starts, or they will cement their place as the team to beat in Bundesliga and carry that momentum to the CL? End of the day, I still think Italian teams match up well against German opposition.

Verdict: Van Buyten will always scare me, the rest of Bayern does not.