Champions League action returns this week, with the first night split between the venues in London, where Arsenal will try and mount an improbable comeback from 4-0 down against an AC Milan side hitting its stride at the perfect time, while Zenit have the tough task of facing Benfica at the Estadio Da Luz, trying to maintain their 3-2 lead from the frozen first leg in Russia.
Arsenal – AC Milan
First match: Milan thrashed Arsenal 4-0 at the San Siro. Robinho scored twice, Kevin-Prince Boaten and Zlatan Ibrahimovic added goals as well.
It’s about pride this time, not anything else. Despite Arsenal’s impressive 5-2 win over Tottenham and lucky strike at Anfield against Liverpool, the confidence isn’t causing delusions. But winning and showing this isn’t the ragged group that performed so woefully at the San Siro is a big part of the agenda. The midfield will be a problem for Wenger, who’ll be missing both Tomas Rosicky and Mikel Arteta.
Arsene Wenger, Arsenal manager – I said I don’t live in a dream world – that means I know we have not created an easy situation, but when you are a top-level competitor, even if statistically we have a 5% chance, what is important is that we believe that we can be in this 5% chance.
Benfica vs Zenit
First match: Best game so far, with Zenit winning dramatically 3-2. Roman Shirokov with two goals and Sergei Semak scored for the hosts on a frozen pitch, Oscar Cardozo and Maxi Pereira netted for Benfica.
Benfica took a real blow Friday night, losing to Porto at home in a fantastic match that put them behind in the title race. They did look rather well, but a red card near the end pretty much ruined it for the Eagles. Without Aimar (suspended) and Ezequiel Garay it’ll be a tough mission, despite losing only one home game in Europe out of their last 19 contests.
Zenit will be missing Aleksandr Bukharov and Danny, who didn’t play in the first leg as well. If Zenit can turn this match, like the first, into a physical contest instead of a technical battle, they should qualify.