Milan lead the way at the top of Serie A ahead of their last 16 first-leg clash with Arsenal. The Gunners might be way off the pace in the Premier League title race but they are competing in the Champions League knockout stages for the ninth successive season and have fond memories from their trips to the San Siro in recent years.
In the last three seasons Milan have been prematurely eliminated from the UCL (round of 16), on every occasion an English side being the one to put an end to their campaign. Milan has actually failed to score in 5 of the 6 games played in those ties. Even though they currently lead the Italian Seria A, Milan has been struggling lately, ending a three games winless run with a lucky victory over Udinese. It was one of the worst Milan performances I have ever seen, they were non-existent until Maxi Lopez’s strike. Udinese seemed in the control of the game, wasting some important opportunities and allowed Milan to make a late comeback. Allegri has been struggling with injuries, but he’ll be able to use Ibrahimovic and van Bommel, who missed the Udinese match through suspension. Aquilani, Nesta or Pato are unlikely to feature in this one.
Probable Milan line-up : Abbiati – Abate, Mexes, Thiago Silva, Mesbah – Ambrosini, Van Bommel, Nocerino – Boateng – Ibrahimovic, Robinho
The Gooners have a good record in the UCL against Italian opposition, in eight two legged ties and one final, no Italian side has ever eliminated Arsenal in a knockout competition. In 2007/2008 when these two met, Milan lost for the first time at home against an English opposition. The London leg ended goalless, Arsenal progressing thanks to late goals from Fabregas and Adebayor at San Siro. Arsenal actually gain entrance in this season UCL group stage on the expense of an Italian team, Udinese losing the tie in the second half of the second tie, when Van Persie and Walcott decided the match. The first leg ended in a draw. Arsenal headed to Italy without Peer Mertesacker, who picked up an ankle injury in the weekend’s Premier League win over Sunderland. Aboud Diaby is out with a muscle problem, while Jenkinson remains absent with a stress fracture in his back.
Probable Arsenal line-up : Szczesny – Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs – Arteta, Song, Ramsey – Oxlade-Chamberlain, Van Persie, Walcott
My opinion and betting options:
Both teams won their latest league game in the same manner, coming back from 1-0 to win all points in the dying minutes, but I think Arsenal has the better form at the moment, let’s not forget the 7-1 victory over Blackburn. Milan have experienced a lot of problems in midfield recently with Seedorf not giving the consistency to their game that Pirlo once did, while van Bommel is more concerned about his defensive role. Even though Milan does have some world class strikers like Ibrahimovic or Robinho, they cannot enjoy too many useful balls against a well-organized defense. I expect Milan to have the possession, but Arsenal with Van Persie in top form and some fast wingers like Chamberlain (anytime scorer @ 5.50) and Walcott should make some damage on counter attacks. In this match I would go for under 2,5 goals @ 1.80 and with asian handicap bet for Arsenal +0.5AH @ 1.80.
By Anton Ebdon