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Given AC Milan's recent record against English clubs in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 it is perhaps no surprise that Thiago Silva would prefer not to dwell on the past, but if the defender has learned anything from those bitter experiences it is the importance of defending well in the first leg. "If you do something wrong at home, you're out," he said ahead of the Rossoneri's encounter with Arsenal FC.
Milan were ousted by another north London side, Tottenham Hotspur FC, at this stage last season and bowed out to Manchester United FC in 2009/10, losing the home first leg 1-0 and 3-2 respectively. It was Arsenal who began the Italian side's Premier League hoodoo back in February 2008 with a 2-0 second-leg triumph in Milan, prevailing by the same aggregate score.
Silva had not yet joined Milan when the then holders were defeated by goals from Cesc Fàbregas and Emmanuel Adebayor four years ago, but the 27-year-old, who was included in the UEFA.com users' Team of the Year for 2011, recognises that he and his team-mates will have to be on their mettle to reverse the trend. "Arsenal are a great team," he said. "I'd rather not talk about individuals. We must watch out for the quality of all their players. Over 180 minutes, if you do something wrong in the home leg you're out."
With 21 Serie A and five UEFA Champions League appearances to his name this campaign, Silva has been a mainstay of the Rossoneri rearguard. Now the Brazilian international has the unenviable task of stopping Robin van Persie, who has scored 22 league goals to add to his three UEFA Champions League strikes, and Thierry Henry, making his final appearance for the Gunners before returning to New York Red Bulls.
"Van Persie and Henry can decide the match at any time," said Silva. "I don't know whether I'll be able to stop the Dutchman ‒ we'll have to see." Milan must also wait to discover which of their many injured players will be fit in time for the game, although Silva hinted that his compatriot Pato could return. "He's a great player and a great person," said the centre-back. "We all hope to see him back at the highest level as soon as possible. If he is feeling good, he can make a difference for us – maybe even on Wednesday."
Injuries were a significant factor in Milan's elimination by Tottenham last season when Silva was forced to play as an emergency midfielder. This time he will be in his familiar role at the heart of the defence and is looking forward to an exciting contest. "When you play against important teams, you obviously feel more motivated.
This will be a match full of quality and I hope we manage to impose our style of football and go through."
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