FC Barcelona captain Carles Puyol relishes a return to the San Siro where the Blaugrana won and drew last term, as they face AC Milan for the fifth and sixth times in successive seasons.
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With over 50 years of rivalry since their first encounter in 1959, two of Europe's stellar names – AC Milan and FC Barcelona – now prepare to meet for the fifth and sixth times in two seasons in the UEFA Champions League round of 16.
There were two draws and two Barcelona wins in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League as the clubs faced off in both the group stage and the quarter-finals, Barça advancing to the last four with a 3-1 aggregate success.
Blaugrana captain Carles Puyol, who played in both games at the San Siro, is relishing a return to Milan – describing the draw as a "fantastic eliminator" despite acknowledging the threat posed by the Rossoneri. Meanwhile, Milan's Umberto Gandini hopes that last term's fortunes can be reversed, while offering his best wishes to Tito Vilanova.
Umberto Gandini, Milan sporting director
Last season we faced them twice [group stage and quarter-finals], this time only once fortunately. We are now used to playing in Catalonia. We are all very close to Tito Vilanova and his family and we wish him all the best for his surgery. We hope he will be on the bench against us. We are improving and I am sure we will continue to do so until February. We face a perfect machine even if they had more problems than usual this season in the group stage. Let us just hope we will qualify this time. This is the highest hurdle we could face, but if we manage to jump it we can go all the way.
Carles Puyol, Barcelona captain
Personally I am really happy, not because it will be in any way easy, quite the opposite in fact. I am happy because Milan are a team I have always liked and I like playing there. They have an incredible stadium and I am sure this will be a fantastic eliminator. [Last season] we lost the UEFA Champions League and the Liga practically in the same week. This time around we have started really well and we hope to continue along that path into 2013.
Previous meetings (UEFA Champions League unless stated)
03/04/2012: Barcelona 3-1 Milan (Messi 11pen 41pen, Iniesta 53; Nocerino 32), quarter-final
28/03/2012: Milan 0-0 Barcelona, quarter-final
23/11/2011: Milan 2-3 Barcelona, (Ibrahimović 20, Boateng 54; Van Bommel og 14, Messi 31pen, Xavi Hernández 63), group stage
13/09/2011: Barcelona 2-2 Milan (Pedro Rodríguez 36, Villa 50; Pato 1, Thiago Silva 90+2), group stage
26/04/2006: Barcelona 0-0 Milan, semi-final
18/04/2006: Milan 0-1 Barcelona (Giuly 57), semi-final
02/11/2004: Barcelona 2-1 Milan (Eto'o 37, Ronaldinho 89; Shevchenko 17), group stage
20/10/2004: Milan 1-0 Barcelona (Shevchenko 31), group stage
18/10/2000: Milan 3-3 Barcelona (Albertini 26 39, José Marí 45; Rivaldo 19 43 68), first group stage
26/09/2000: Barcelona 0-2 Milan (Coco 45, Bierhoff 71), first group stage
18/05/1994: Milan 4-0 Barcelona (Massaro 22 45, Savićević 47, Desailly 58), final
07/12/1989: Milan 1-0 Barcelona (Evani 55), UEFA Super Cup
23/11/1989: Barcelona 1-1 Milan (Amor 67; Van Basten 44pen), UEFA Super Cup
25/11/1959: Barcelona 5-1 Milan (Kubala 10 32 69, Segarra 19, Czibor 65; Ferrario 38), European Cup first round
04/11/1959: Milan 0-2 Barcelona (Verges 12, Suárez 16), European Cup first round