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Coach Massimiliano Allegri underlined AC Milan's determination to avoid the pitfalls of last season when they welcome Arsenal FC to San Siro. The Italian giants bowed out to the Gunners' north London rivals Tottenham Hotspur FC 12 months ago – Manchester United FC got the better of them the previous season – unable to claw back a 1-0 first-leg defeat at home.
Coach Massimiliano Allegri
We are aware of Arsenal's strength; they have individual talent and play well as a team. The Gunners collectively are more dangerous than the qualities of two great players like [Thierry] Henry and [Robin] van Persie. We must be careful and we have to perform well in defence because it's a 180-minute challenge.
We will try to qualify for the next round because we want to improve on our last campaign in the UEFA Champions League.
We must be careful, play well technically and avoid some of the mistakes we have made recently. Conceding a goal at home would be a blow ahead of the second leg in London. We must not concede on the counterattack.
We don't have an inferiority complex against English teams despite the defeats in recent seasons. Last year [against Tottenham] we made a big mistake in Milan but in the second game we deserved to win and go through. Arsenal are performing well and their attack is very dangerous.
[Stephan] El Shaarawy is playing very well, he's growing, but is only 19 so we must not give him too much responsibility. He has great qualities, is a great striker and has become a starter in the Milan attack.
Saturday: Udinese Calcio 1-2Milan (Di Natale 19; Maxi López 77, El Shaarawy 85)
Amelia; Abate, Mexès, Thiago Silva, Mesbah; Emanuelson, Ambrosini, Nocerino (Maxi López 66); Seedorf; Robinho (Bonera 88), El Shaarawy
• Substitute Maxi López scored his first goal for the club and set up El Shaarawy for the youngster's second effort in as many outings as Milan ended a run of three games without a win.
Christian Abbiati, Pato, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Alessandro Nesta (all thigh) are available for selection having been sidelined recently. Mario Yepes (ankle) is back in training but Allegri still has other injury concerns, with Alberto Aquilani (ankle), Alexander Merkel (knee), Rodney Strasser (ankle) unavailable and Mathieu Flamini (knee ligaments), Antonio Cassano (heart surgery) and Gennaro Gattuso (eye) long-term absentees.
Manager Arsène Wenger
[Four seasons ago] when we played here Milan had won the Champions League the year before but we knocked them out. We had an up-and-coming team full of confidence, a very young side, and when we arrived here we were top of the league in England. Since then we have lost some players but we're a strong team again; we're growing in confidence.
We will try to play our game;
Milan are a good side but we think we are too. We will go to attack, they certainly will as well; it will be an exciting game. We are focused on every game and every competition. We can win anywhere. If I didn't think that I might as well stay at home.
[Last season] Milan had a lot of the ball but Tottenham caught them on the break at the end of the game. [Tottenham] were dominated by Milan, especially in the second half. It's difficult to predict; we won't go into the game thinking we will sit back. If we have to do what Tottenham did then we will, and try to catch them on the break. At the start we will try to get out of our half and play. Tottenham were well balanced in the first half but they won the game at a moment when they were being dominated.
Saturday: Sunderland AFC 1-2 Arsenal FC (McClean 70; Ramsey 75, Henry 90+1)
Szczęsny; Sagna, Mertesacker (Ramsey 72), Vermaelen, Koscielny; Song, Arteta, Walcott (Arshavin 87), Rosický, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Henry 66); Van Persie
• Henry, whose loan ends on 16 February, has scored three goals in six appearances (all as a second-half substitute) during this spell at Arsenal. He marked his return for the Gunners with the only goal against Leeds United AFC in the FA Cup third round on 9 January.
Wenger confirmed that Johan Djourou will come in for Per Mertesacker after the German international suffered an ankle injury at the weekend. Kieran Gibbs is available again after four months out with a hernia problem while Henry is likely to be on the bench in his final game before returning to New York Red Bulls.
Milan bowed out to Arsenal's north London rivals Tottenham 12 months ago, Manchester United having got the better of them the previous season. In 2007/08 it was Arsenal themselves who began a poor sequence for Milan against English sides when they triumphed at this stage, meaning the Italian club's last three campaigns have been ended in the last 16 by English opponents with a home defeat on each occasion.
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