Milan: AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is relishing the chance to face former team Barcelona in the 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 he’ll 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.”
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 is two points behind Barcelona with two games left to play. Both teams are already through to the knockout stage.
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 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.
“I would love to score,” the forward said. “But if I don’t manage that it would also be good to provide an assist or simply to give a hand to my teammates for an important win.”
“I’m feeling good. I’m back after two months out and I’m ready to play.”
Barcelona extended its unbeaten start to the season to 20 games with a 4-0 win over Zaragoza on Saturday, with Lionel Messi recording his league-leading 15th goal of the season and his 50th in 2011.
Xavi Hernandez said the defending Champions League winners 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 is 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 has two points, one more than Plzen.