Milan have drawn Arsenal in the Round of 16 Europa League draw, but what can they expect when they face the Gunners?
Words: Marcello Cossali-Francis
The Rossoneri will host Arsenal in the first-leg at San Siro before they travel to the Emirates Stadium the week after for the second-leg.
This will be the seventh and eighth time these two sides have ever faced each other in European competition but the first time they will meet in the second-tier of European football.
The last time these two played each other was in the round of 16 in the Champions League back in 2012, where Milan progressed 4-3 on aggregate, despite losing the second-leg in London, 3-0. Milan, who were then managed by now Juventus manager, Massimiliano Allegri, did win the first-leg at the San Siro 4-0, with goals from Kevin Prince Boateng, a brace from Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Milan also prevailed over Arsenal in the Champions League back in 2008, when they again faced off in the Round of 16 stage, progressing on to the quarter-final with a 2-0 aggregate victory.
Arsenal go into the tie lacking consistency in all competitions, siting in sixth place and eight points off the top 4 and Champions League qualification. This looks like being Arsenal’s only way back into the top-tier of European football and will pick strong sides to face Milan in these two fixtures.
Arsenal have struggled in the latter stages of the Champions League for many years now and lost their second-leg at home in the previous round to Swedish first-timers, Ostersunds 2-1. However, they did win their group rather easily by four points winning four of their six games and losing just once. Arsene Wenger rotated his squad throughout the group stage but will likely select his strongest possible XI for the remainder of this tournament.
Star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, is cup tied in the Europa League having played for Dortmund in their failed Champions League campaign this pre-Christmas. The likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil are the main danger men for Arsenal, who on their day, are capable of winning any game but can sometimes be criticised for failing to turn up in the big matches.
Defensively, Milan have been very good so far this year and under Gennaro Gattuso, look like a team that are finally starting to live up to their pre-season hype.
Arsenal struggle defensively and Milan will be confident of breaching their defence in both matches. A solid home leg will be required and probably a lead heading into the second-leg as Arsenal will fancy their chances at home.
A very difficult tie to call on paper but the home leg will be key for Milan if they are to progress through to the quarter-finals.
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