Massimiliano Allegri believes that AC Milan are "getting used" to playing against FC Barcelona as he steeled his side for their latest UEFA Champions League encounter with the Spanish title holders whose own coach, Gerard Martino, reflected on a big week ahead.
Massimiliano Allegri, coach
It will be a fascinating game for everybody. We need to play with courage and sacrifice against the best team in the world to get three points and increase our chances of qualifying. We must try to make as few mistakes as possible. Barcelona will have the ball more than us, so we have to play a game similar to last year's home tie [in the last 16 which Milan won 2-0].
Since the arrival of Neymar, they have changed in attack because the Brazilian gives them more depth. We need to be patient for 100 minutes – we are getting used to facing Barcelona.
Mario Balotelli is feeling better. We'll see after training whether he will be able to play. We hope to have Mattia De Sciglio back for the match against Parma FC [at the weekend]. Philippe Mexès and Nigel de Jong are available.
Saturday: AC Milan 1-0 Udinese Calcio (Birsa 22)
Gabriel; Abate, Silvestre, Zapata, Constant; Poli, Montolivo, Muntari (Nocerino 86); Birsa (Niang 68); Matri (Kaká 77), Robinho.
• Without the suspended Mexès and De Jong, Milan won for the third time in eight Serie A games. Like in their previous home match against UC Sampdoria, Valter Birsa scored the only goal, this time with a wonderful strike from the edge of the box.
Balotelli came through training on Monday after a thigh problem had kept him out against Udinese. Christian Abbiati missed Saturday's victory with a calf injury as Brazilian goalkeeper Gabriel, who is not in Milan's UEFA Champions League squad, and Matías Silvestre made their club debuts.
Gerardo Martino, coach
Milan will play to win, and it will not be a formality for us. We are up against a team with a great tradition, they're too big an institution to take lightly so we'll start thinking about Real Madrid [Barcelona's opponents next weekend] on Wednesday. It will be a tough match. We're facing a very important club, we feel a big responsibility, but we feel the same feelings in every game.
It will be a week of important games but it's not crucial for our season because it's a long campaign and there are many tough matches still to come. That said, we know that with a good result tomorrow we'll have practically wrapped up our place in the last 16. We have to play as we know how, giving away little space and stopping Milan's counterattacks.
On Saturday [against CA Osasuna] we didn't get a good result but we played well. I'm sure that we will not be affected by that result. The performance is more important than the result.
Saturday: CA Osasuna 0-0 FC Barcelona
Valdés; Montoya, Puyol, Bartra, Adriano; Iniesta, Busquets, Xavi (Messi 68); Rodríguez (Tello 75), Fàbregas, Neymar.
• Barcelona's club-record eight-match winning start in the Spanish Liga ended in Pamplona. They were one shy of Real Madrid CF's league best of nine victories at the start of a campaign, achieved in 1968/69. The goalless draw was the first time in 65 games that Barcelona had failed to score in the top flight.
Carles Puyol made his first appearance since March at Osasuna after recovering from knee surgery, while Lionel Messi was a second-half substitute following a hamstring problem. Javier Mascherano, who strained a hamstring on 24 September, was on the bench.
• Milan won 2-0 at San Siro in the first leg of last season's round of 16 encounter, Kevin-Prince Boateng (57) and Sulley Muntari (81) the scorers. Barcelona hit back, however, with four unanswered goals at the Camp Nou, Messi (5, 40), David Villa (55) and Jordi Alba (90) securing a 4-2 aggregate success.
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