Massimiliano Allegri could not deny his side would have preferred a more benign UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw than the one that pitted them against the team he decriibed as "the best in the world" on Friday. However, having seen the Rossoneri give a good account of themselves against FC Barcelona already this season, the AC Milan coach remains upbeat about the last-eight tie. "Those two games have boosted our confidence," he said. "Milan always play their best in these kind of matches."
Having played Barcelona twice in the autumn group stage, drawing 2-2 in Spain before losing 3-2 in Italy, Milan must try and succeed where they failed over the two legs of this quarter-final. Allegri, though, sounds an optimistic note about the prospect of another duel with the European champions. "Let's focus on the positives," said the 44-year-old. "If we get through this quarter-final, I think we will have a great chance of reaching the final with Barcelona out of the picture.
"We have faced them twice this term," continued Allegri, whose side play the home leg on 28 March before the return in Spain on 3 April. "We defended well in Barcelona and we played well at home, even though we lost. They are the best in the world but we know we have a chance. We have to believe in what we are doing because Milan always play their best in these kind of matches. I also hope to have some players back from injury."
Allegri adds that the Azulgrana represent no less onerous an assignment than other draws might have done, while eliminating Josep Guardiola's men would also smooth their route to the 19 May final – a successful semi-final against SL Benfica or Chelsea FC permitting. "We played two different kinds of games in the group stage. We were forced to defend at Camp Nou, while we tried to attack more at home when we made a few more mistakes.
"However, I think those two games have given us confidence. Real Madrid are more or less on the same level and, with all due respect to the rest, Bayern are also strong so it doesn't make much difference. The draw has given us Barcelona and we have to focus on Barcelona, we cannot change it. We would have had to beat them anyway to win the Champions League. Everyone knows it will be difficult, but you can only worry about the things you can control and the draw is not one of them."
Despite holding bragging rights following their San Siro triumph on matchday five, Barcelona boss Guardiola is wary about having to overcome the seven-times European champions all over again. "We are playing one of the greatest teams in history so we will need everyone's help," he said. "We are the European champions so we have to eliminate the best and Milan are one of them. I'm not thinking about hypothetical semi-finals, all I know is we have a terribly hard quarter-final."
Barcelona's sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, meanwhile, is excited about renewing a "passionate" rivalry. "Knockout stages are different from the group phase," he said. "Milan are an enormous club, with their history, tradition, players, individual quality, great stadium and great fans. We know them, having played them recently, but obviously it is a very different situation this time.
"It's a match between two great clubs, two great teams, two great squads, two great coaches, two great sets of fans and two great stadiums. We'll see everything that's passionate about football in these quarter-finals. We are delighted to play against Milan. This tie reflects the level of this great competition."
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