AC Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri says his players need to show patience and retain possession if they are to beat title holders Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League tomorrow. Top spot in Group H is up for grabs to the winners although the Spanish visitors can afford a draw and remain in pole position to finish the group stages in first place.
Milan were largely dominated despite snatching a 2-2 draw in the Camp Nou in September and Allegri says they must stop Barcelona monopolising the ball this time around. "They're difficult to play against because they're technical and manage to vary the tempo of the game," he said. "They're good at accelerating and then slowing down.
"We'll need a lot of balance and we cannot get impatient but instead we need to push up and stop them having so much possession. And we must also accept that we won't have much of the ball, which is nothing to be ashamed of. The only thing to avoid is making mistakes when we have the ball."
Barcelona may be head and shoulders above Milan these days but Allegri wants his players to remember just who they are. With seven Champions League titles, Milan's haul has been surpassed only by Real Madrid and they have three more titles than Barcelona. "We must have a lot of respect (for Barça) and play a game fit for Milan," added Allegri. "We have to play well from a technical perspective and play with a lot of intensity in defence. We need to be organised, even more so than we were in the first match. In the Camp Nou we had more chances in the first 20 minutes than they did in the whole game."
Allegri says he still has a few decisions to make over who will play and must decide between Brazilians Pato and Robinho to partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic in attack. He is waiting too on veteran Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf's fitness while he says former Barça full-back Gianluca Zambrotta will defintely play.
And he has no fears that the occasion will be too much for another Barça ex, Ibrahimovic. "Zlatan is very serene and calm and like everyone he's desperate to play this match," said Allegri. "It's not a question of revenge and I won't be putting reins on him."
Having had a difficult start to their league campaign, Milan have been on a good run recently, winning five in a row before Saturday's 0-0 draw at Fiorentina. They sit third in Serie A and Allegri believes a win against Barça would do wonders for their confidence. "If we win our self-belief and confidence in ourselves will grow," he said. "This team has always shown they know how to read a match in the best way, as we did in Barcelona and as we could do tomorrow."
For Seedorf - who used to play for Barça's eternal rivals Real Madrid - this is a clash between two power-houses of European football. "For Milan the principal goal is always to win but we're playing againist the best," he said. "We have total respect for them and we must make the most of our chances and win as we should and know how to. Matches against Spanish clubs are spectacular because they're the clubs who made football history. They're teams who know what it means to win, they have the right mentality."