BARCELONA: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, toxic in his autobiography about his relationship with Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, returns to Camp Nou tonight with a place in the Champions League semi-finals at stake.
Milan and Barcelona drew 0-0 in last eek’s first leg in Italy and now the Sweden striker has the ideal opportunity to turn words into action after his bitterness over his one unsuccessful season with the world, European and Spanish champions.
Guardiola believes that Milan will score an away goal and thus his team will have to work harder than ever to create enough openings to outscore the Italians. This will be Guardiola’s 50th Champions League game as Barcelona’s coach since he took over in the summer of 2008.
Those 49 games so far have brought two out of a possible three overall victories, 30 wins, 14 draws and only five defeats with 116 goals for and 39 against.
Also on 49 – Champions League goals in his case – is Barcelona’s World Player of the Year Leo Messi. He has scored 41 of those under Guardiola, with 12 coming already this season including the remarkable five-goal display against Bayer Leverkusen.
Barcelona have never lost in Europe when Messi has scored and he is their key to a place in the semi-finals for the sixth successive season. The only fitness doubt for Barcelona is playmaker Xavi who will have a late fitness test.
History, however, is on the side of Milan. They have lost only twice in eight visits to Barcelona in Europe’s top club competition. The first time was in 1959 when Barcelona won 5-1 with goals from Eulogio Martinez, Juan Segarra, Zoltan Czibor (two) and Ladislav Kubala; the second time was in 2004 when Ronaldinho was Barcelona’s match-winner.
Both the last two games between the teams in Catalonia have ended in draws.
Bayern Munich, already 2-0 up on Marseille after their visit to France last week, should finish the job in tonight’s other quarter-final tie in the AllianArena which will stage the final in May.
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