Gerardo Martino rejects the idea now is a good time for FC Barcelona to play an AC Milan side struggling in Serie A, saying: "I'm always suspicious of a big team in crisis."
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AC Milan's travails in Serie A have not influenced FC Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino's thinking heading into the second UEFA Champions League meeting of the clubs in a fortnight. The Rossoneri are 11th in the Italian top flight following a 2-0 weekend defeat, yet the Blaugrana trainer is "suspicious" of the supposed crisis at Milan and maintains that his side will "have to play very well to win" the Group H encounter. Massimiliano Allegri summed up the size of the visitors' task when he said: "We're playing against the strongest team in the world."
Gerardo Martino, coach
I imagine we won't drift too far from what we normally do. Against Milan we will need mobility, persistence and energy in order to prevent them doing what they did in the last game against us. In that match there were more favourable than unfavourable moments for us, but because we didn't win you are left with the feeling that their system of waiting at the back and springing out on the counterattack was difficult to overcome.
I'm always suspicious of a big team in [supposed] crisis. Big teams have history behind them. Milan have history and important players. We respect a lot the [Milan] institution, their history and their shirt. We will have to play very well to win. It is vital we win to almost ensure our place in the next round, although we can't mathematically achieve it.
There is always room for improvement – and we can improve, there is no doubt about that. We have room to do so, both individually and collectively. We do not have any real problems, but that does not stop us wanting to get better.
Friday: Barcelona 1-0 RCD Espanyol (Alexis Sánchez 68)
Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano (Bartra 89), Montoya; Xavi Hernández, Busquets, Iniesta (Fàbregas 86); Alexis Sánchez (Pedro Rodríguez 83), Messi, Neymar.
• This Liga derby win extended Barcelona's unbeaten start to life under Martino to 17 games.
Isaac Cuenca has not played this term following knee surgery in the summer, while Ibrahim Afellay had an operation in August to correct a thigh complaint. Jordi Alba has been out since tearing his right hamstring on 14 September. Adriano is fit having missed Friday's fixture due to a left hamstring problem, with Gerard Piqué, who trained alone on Monday, also in the squad.
Massimiliano Allegri, coach
I am not nervous, neither about the Barça match nor about Chievo at the weekend, because I will approach both games with a positive mindset and with the goal of winning. The result depends on many things and at the moment things are not going very well. We must focus on the details and see what helps us most.
If we want to get a good result we have to perform very well as a group because playing against Barcelona is very difficult. We have to pay close attention and if we do as well in defence and attack as we did in the first leg, we have a chance of winning.
We're playing against the strongest team in the world. In recent games against them we have done well, such as in the first leg of the knockout tie last season or our encounter on matchday three.
Saturday: Milan 0-2 ACF Fiorentina (Vargas 27, Borja Valero 73)
Gabriel; Abate, Zapata, Zaccardo, Constant; Montolivo, De Jong, Muntari (Saponara 69); Birsa (Niang 57), Kaká; Balotelli.
• Saturday's 2-0 loss left Milan on 12 points from 11 Serie A outings, though that is only two points fewer than at the same stage last term.
On 30 October against SS Lazio, Mattia De Sciglio made his first appearance since August having overcome a knee injury – but he has not played since after the joint became swollen.
• Barcelona got back to winning ways at Camp Nou with the 4-0 victory over AFC Ajax on matchday one. Their 3-0 semi-final loss to FC Bayern München in May is their only defeat in their last 23 UEFA Champions League home fixtures.