Wednesday’s game at the Camp Nou pits together two of European football’s most successful teams as both clubs have won the tournament – whether in its current format or previously as the European Cup – a total of four times apiece. Lining up along with Barca and Ajax in arguably the toughest group in this season’s competition, are seven-time European champions Milan and Celtic, winners in 1966-67. Though Ajax and Celtic wouldn’t be too much of a worry for Barcelona but Milan certainly have a lot on their plate if they intend to make it to the next round.
What to expect from the Matches –
Barcelona will be without Jordi Alba for their opening game after he picked up a hamstring injury in 3-2 win over Sevilla on Saturday, while Carles Puyol (knee), and Ibrahim Afellay (thigh) are unavailable. Meanwhile, Ajax are likely to be without Siem de Jong, who has only recently recovered from a collapsed lung, but Daley Blind, Ricardo van Rhijn, Thulani Serero and Joel Veltman are all fit to feature.
With Barcelona at home, with the home advantage and clearly the strongest side in this group, you would not want to bet against Barca kicking off their campaign in search for their 5th European title with a huge win against the underdogs Ajax.
On the other hand, the clash between Milan and Celtic would be a mouth-watering one for every football fan. Though Milan enjoy the advantage in terms of quality along with the home crowd but they also have an Injury list which at present seems longer than Peter Crouch’s height. Ignazio Abate, Mattia de Sciglio, Matias Silvestre, Daniele Bonera and Giampaolo Pazzini were sidelined prior to their 2-2 weekend draw with Torino. To make matters worse, Stephan El Shaarawy was forced to pull out of that game with a thigh problem, while Riccardo Montolivo was withdrawn from the action with a similar injury and media reports have suggested that Kaka faces a month out with a thigh strain. Allegri’s men have won just one of their first three games in Serie A and only salvaged a point at Torino courtesy of late goals from Sulley Muntari and Mario Balotelli.
Players to watch out for
Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – You just cannot keep the little Argentine out of limelight. He will always show up on the grandest stage and not many come bigger than the European Champions Leauge.
Mario Balotelli (AC Milan) – With the long list of injuries that Milan have to conjure, it’s only fitting for a character like Mario to come up with something special and make a mark on the game. The guy never disappoints in terms of entertainment and I’m highly hopefully he delivers yet again at the San Siro this week.
Barcelona 3 – 0 Ajax.
For Barca, Lionel Messi to score a brace with Neymar making his Champions league debut roping himself a goal, to round off a thoroughly professional performance by the Catalan side.
Milan 2 – 1 Celtic
AC Milan might be suffering from a lot of injuries lately but they still have enough quality on the pitch to edge past the Scottish giants. Mario Balotelli and Matri to score for the Italian side with a goal-a-piece. Celtic might get a set-piece goal from somewhere as a consolation.