Ibrahimovic ready for Barca clash

Only pride is at stake as striker lines up to play his former team in European Champions League qualifier.

    Ibrahimovic will face his former employers for the first time since leaving the club in the summer of 2010 [GETTY]

    AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is relishing the chance to face former team Barcelona in the European Champions League on Wednesday.

    The tall Swede missed the opening match at the Nou Camp in September, a 2-2 draw, because of injury, but will be healthy this time.

    "I was looking forward to that match,'' Ibrahimovic said.

    "I was disappointed, but for me playing against a former team is nothing personal.

    “Of course it's emotional, a big game, but in the end it's like any other game. There's no need to over-hype it.''

    Barca stint

    Ibrahimovic spent only one season at Barcelona after a much-hyped move from Inter Milan in 2009 in a deal which saw Samuel Eto'o go the other way.

    He scored 16 goals in the Spanish league but often struggled to fit into Barcelona's intricate passing schemes.

    "We will be playing against the best team in the world, without doubt,'' Ibrahimovic said.

    "Even when I left the team, I knew I'd left the best team in the world.

    "But, for me and all the other parties involved, I think the best solution was to leave the club. Given the results for both sides, it was the best solution.''

    A 1-1 draw against BATE Borisov last time out saw Milan lose ground in the race for first place in Group H. Milan are two points behind Barcelona with two games left to play. Both teams are already through to the knockout stage.

    In-form

    Ibrahimovic has scored in the three European matches he has played for Milan this season and another good performance from the Sweden striker could see the Italian side jump ahead of Barcelona.

    "I think this game is more about prestige,'' Ibrahimovic said.

    "It's good to come first, but sometimes it's good to come second. Both can be positive or negative.

    "When you're in the Champions League, you're bound to meet a strong team, and to win the competition you will have to beat the strong teams.''

    Antonio Cassano, who is recovering from heart surgery, turned up at Milan's training ground on Monday to give the team a boost ahead of the match.

    Milan will also be boosted by the return of Alexandre Pato from injury.

    The Brazilian played his first game in two months in the goalless draw against Fiorentina over the weekend and hit the post in the 77th minute.

    Confident

    Fixtures

    Tuesday November 22

     CSKA Moscow v Lille
     Bayern v Villarreal
     Lyon v Ajax
     Man Utd v Benfica
     Napoli v Man City
     Galati v FC Basel
     Real v Dinamo Zagreb
     Trabzonspor v Inter

    Wednesday November 23

     Zenit v Apoel Nicosia
     BATE Borisov v Plzen
     AC Milan v Barcelona
     Arsenal v Dortmund
     Leverkusen v Chelsea
     Marseille v Olympiakos
     Shakhtar v Porto
     Valencia v Genk

    "I don't have major doubts about the team,'' Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri said Tuesday.

    "I have to decide who will start between Pato and Robinho, and in midfield evaluate how fit (Clarence) Seedorf is this afternoon.''

    Barcelona extended their unbeaten start to the season to 20 games with a 4-0 win over Zaragoza on Saturday.

    "It's difficult to play against Barcelona,'' Allegri said.

    "Because the players have skills and they can change the rhythm of the game, they are good at upping the pace or making the game slower.

    "We will have to be very balanced, we'll need to play a bit higher up the pitch and make sure Barcelona have less of the ball.''

    Barcelona beat Manchester United last season to win the Champions League for the second time in three years, and Xavi Hernandez said his teammates have as much hunger as ever.

    "When you win you live better, you are more respected and your cachet goes up,'' Xavi said.

    "Everything is positive when one wins. Unfortunately, a lot of footballers here have experienced the other side of the coin and it is not a nice experience.

    "Hence we must never lose the appetite for titles. Great sportsmen always want to win and that hunger remains intact.''

    Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has a bruised left thigh and will not travel to the San Siro as a precautionary measure.

    Barcelona are also without fullback Adriano and the suspended Daniel Alves. Pedro Rodriguez could play for the first time in a month after recovering from an ankle sprain.

    In the other group match, BATE will host Viktoria Plzen. BATE have two points, one more than Plzen.

    SOURCE: AP


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