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Carles Puyol oozed confidence as he looked forward to FC Barcelona's UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg against AC Milan on Tuesday. "We only know one way to play," he said. "Attack and win the game."
This veteran of 107 UEFA Champions League fixtures has played in, and won, all three of the competition finals that Barcelona have contested over the last seven years, which perhaps explains why the seasoned defender is viewing Tuesday's visit of the Rossoneri as another final. "It is a final and we can only win," the 33-year-old told a packed press conference at Camp Nou. "No draws, no 0-0s, just victory. Camp Nou will be full and will be behind the team. The fans are always by our side and tomorrow will be no exception."
Milan are well known to the Barça captain, this being the fourth time the two sides have met this season, but Puyol sees their familiarity as neither a positive nor a negative. It is simply another high-profile challenge that he will savour. "I don't think it's good or bad to have faced them so often. They are one of the great teams in Europe, it's a match everyone wants to play. We have to be very good in our defending and in attack if we want to qualify."
After last week's San Siro stalemate, any goal will be cherished by either side, but Puyol, who came close to breaking the deadlock in Milan with a glancing header in the second half, knows that a scoring draw will be fatal for the defending European champions. "
Our intention is to score first but we know that with a 1-0 you can also suffer so we have to create as many chances as possible."
One player who knows all about hitting the net is Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimović, Serie A's leading marksman with 22 goals. After missing out on Milan's previous visit to Barcelona with an ankle injury the Sweden international is set to make his first return to the club he left after a season's service almost two years ago.
Zlatan is one of the best strikers in the world and difficult to defend against," added Puyol. "He's technically very good and we want him away from the box. It's not just a job for me, though; the whole team need to keep him under control. But many players make the difference for Milan – Ibra, Pato, Robinho, they can all decide a match at any time so we have to be very focused. Not just me, but the whole team."
The central defender is just one game away from making his 550th appearance in official competitions for Barcelona, and should he face Massimiliano Allegri's charges he will replace Miguel Bernardo Bianquetti as the player with the second most appearances for the Catalan side
"It's an honour for me to be in the position to be able to surpass Migueli's record. I hope to play many more games but I don't think I will be able to catch up with Xavi, because that's impossible." Barcelona's playmaker may be absent against Milan after missing training on Monday but even so, Xavi's 618 appearance total leaves Puyol some way short. Yet you suspect playing second fiddle to Xavi is unlikely to trouble a man who is a culé – the popular term for Barcelona fan – to the core.
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