Massimiliano Allegri was quick to note that his AC Milan side will need to be at their very best to progress past Arsenal FC after the clubs were drawn together in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.
Allegri's charges have suffered at Arsenal's hands before at this stage, losing to the Gunners when defending the title in 2007/08. Carlo Ancelotti was overseeing their bid that year, but subsequent Rossoneri coaches, Allegri included, have also learned the perils of facing English opposition at this juncture.
Leonardo's men went down 7-2 on aggregate to Manchester United FC in 2009/10, and, with Allegri in charge, they were beaten 1-0 by Arsenal's north London neighbours Tottenham Hotspur FC last term. In all three ties, Milan lost their home leg, but they hope to turn that around on 15 February before a 6 March trip to the English capital.
Allegri, whose team finished Group H runners-up behind FC Barcelona, is just as concerned about their away form, however, saying: "If we make the same mistakes we did in Prague and Minsk [during draws against FC Viktoria Plzeň and FC BATE Borisov] in the group stage, we will surely have problems.
Arsenal are strong and we'll have to be in our best form in that period while hoping not to have many injured players, as happened last season in the same round."
Arsène Wenger's team finished top of Group F and have already beaten one Serie A outfit this season, winning home and away against Udinese Calcio in the play-off round – their eighth victory in eight knockout ties against Italian opposition.
Wenger told Arsenal's website: "It is a difficult draw but an exciting one. And they could say exactly the same thing, I suppose. It is a 50-50. So let's make sure we continue to improve until February. Then we can take our chance with full power and belief."
The clubs first met before Wenger's time in the 1994 UEFA Super Cup, when Milan held Arsenal 0-0 at Highbury and then won 2-0 at San Siro. The first leg of their 2008 meeting in London finished scoreless too, but Arsenal prevailed 2-0 in Italy with the now departed Cesc Fàbregas and Emmanuel Adebayor scoring the goals.
"We have good memories at San Siro," Wenger added. "As I say, it is an interesting draw. Ideally, it is a draw for one round later, but you take them when they happen. There is not much more to say really – everybody knows Milan, everybody knows Arsenal. We have been in the Champions League for many years and both sides play positive football."
Arsenal and Chelsea FC are the Premier League's only survivors after the elimination of the two Manchester clubs, but Allegri stressed: "I don't believe English football is in crisis." Reflecting on Arsenal's domestic campaign, he added: "Arsenal did not have a great start to the season but they've recovered well and I'm sure they will be very competitive in February."
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