UCL: Milano in the limelight
The UEFA Champions League returns and two matches stand out, with one particular European city of significant interest this week and next.
AC Milan and Inter have had decent starts to this Champions League campaign but both clubs have it all to do as we hit the halfway mark in the group stages. The Rossoneri have taken 4 points from their opening two games and can extend their advantage atop Group E when they pay a visit to Chelsea on Wednesday.
Inter, meanwhile, lost at home to Bayern before scoring their first points of the European season away to Viktoria Plzen. Simone Inzaghi's side now host FC Barcelona, needing a positive result to stay in contention for the knockouts.
- Inter Milan vs Barcelona
The Nerazzurri and La Blaugrana have clashed 10 times in the Champions League, with four of those coming in the 2009/10 season alone. More recently they met in the group stages in 2018/19 and again the following campaign, with Barca winning three of those four battles.
Tuesday's match is a real six-pointer with the Italian and Catalan giants level on 3 points in Group C, with either side needing victory just as much as the other. They have each beaten Plzen and lost to Bayern, and the Bavarians are likely to make it three from three when they host the Czechia outfit in the early game on Tuesday.
Inter's last victory over Barca came 12 years ago when José Mourinho’s black and blue army overcame the Champions League holders, 3-1, in the semifinal first leg at San Siro. The 1-0 reverse saw Inter advance to the final and earlier that season the two teams were also grouped together, as Pep Guardiola's men won at home and drew away.
Barca have an injury crisis with right-sided defenders Ronald Araujo, Jules Koundé, and Hector Bellerin all ruled out of the trip to Italy. Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay are also expected to miss the showdown in Milano.
Inter have to contend without striker Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Marcelo Brozovic when they welcome Los Cules to town.
- Inter have lost six and drawn three of their 10 meetings with Barca in the Champions League.
- Inter lost at the weekend, 1-2, to Roma and are 8 points off the pace in Serie A, having won just half of their opening eight matches.
- Barcelona are atop LaLiga with six wins from seven games; they have scored the most goals (19) and conceded the fewest (1).
- Chelsea vs AC Milan
Unlike Inter and Barca, these two teams do not have recent history against one another and Wednesday's tie is set to be their first competitive rendezvous for 23 years. Chelsea and Milan last went head-to-head in the 1999/00 Champions League group stage which produced two stalemates, 0-0 at Stamford Bridge and 1-1 at San Siro.
This term Chelsea lost in their European opener at Dinamo Zegreb, which was the last straw for Thomas Tuchel, before they drew at home to RB Salzburg in Graham Potter's first outing as Blues boss. Now, four weeks into the Potter regime, the 2021 UCL winners are looking to kick on and lift themselves off the bottom of Group E.
Although Chelsea and Milan haven't shared a pitch for 23 years, there is a fair share of individuals to have represented both of these heavyweight clubs. Former players Andriy Shevchenko, Hernan Crespo, Michel Essien and Fernando Torres all donned the blue of London and red of Milano in their respective playing careers, while manager Carlo Ancelotti won a league title with Milan in 2004 and with Chelsea six years later.
Ex-Milan defender Thiago Silva has been a mainstay in Chelsea's backline for the past two years and the 38-year-old Brazilian is in line to face his former team on Wednesday. Also likely to feature at Stamford Bridge are Fikayo Tomori and Olivier Giroud, who both swapped Chelsea for Milan last year. Tiemoue Bakayoko is at Milan on loan from Chelsea and the French midfielder may also be involved against his parent club.
- Teams due to play first tie of the century.
- Chelsea trail Premier League leaders Arsenal by 8 points but have a game in hand.
- Milan are 3 points adrift the Serie A summit, five ahead of city rivals Inter.