Champions League Preview: Milan – FC Zurich


Andrea Pirlo and Milan Gajic - AC Milan v FC Zurich - UEFA Champions League

There is no break in the fixtures for the Rossoneri as the Champions League returns to the Giuseppe Meazza.

Kick Off: Wednesday, September 30, 20:45 CET
Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan

Pressure Building On Milan

Looking at the big picture, the weekend was not as bad as it might have been for Leonardo as Inter were beaten at Sampdoria and Juventus were held to a draw at home to Bologna. That said, a goalless draw at home against a side likely to be among the bottom three next May is not the sign of a team with confidence.

Neither their shaky defence nor their uninspiring midfield line-up have been the real reason behind their slump though. Since Alexandre Pato netted twice in the season opener at Siena, the Rossoneri have scored just once in the league.

An away win at Olympique de Marseille gave some respite to Milan’s Brazilian coach, but his side simply must put away chances against an FC Zurich side who are currently shipping goals at an alarming rate.

There is a promising precedent for the Diavoli. Milan faced Zurich in the UEFA Cup first round last year and ran out 4-1 winners over the two legs. They have also never lost to Swiss opposition in an official fixture, having won their only other meeting with a Swiss side, Aarau, 1-0 on aggregate in 1993-94.

Swiss Won’t Roll Over


FC Zurich are making their debut in the Champions League group stage this year, but a 5-2 reverse at home to Real Madrid wasn’t the start they had intended. Since then, they thrashed third-tier Witikon in the Swiss Cup but have continued their poor run of form in the Swiss Super League.

Der Stadtclub have conceded 20 goals in the Super League so far – only Bellinzona and Aarau have conceded more, and they are in the relegation zone. For a side who have won their league in three out of the last four years, it makes grim reading.

The Swiss side do not have a good record in Italy either. They were defeated by Roma in the 1998-99 UEFA Cup and they even went down 2-1 at Empoli in 2007-08, although they defeated the now-Serie B side 3-0 in the home leg.

However, records are there to be broken and coach Bernard Challandes will take heart from the Rossoneri’s recent performances. If his strikers can exploit the hosts’ nerves and find an early goal, the Swiss could take a positive result away from the San Siro.


FORM GUIDE

Milan


September 27 v Bari (H) – DREW 0-0 (Serie A)

September 23 v Udinese (A) – LOST 1-0 (Serie A)

September 20 v Bologna (H) – WON 1-0 (Serie A)

September 15 v Olympique de Marseille (A) – WON 2-1 (Champions League)

September 12 v Livorno (A) – DREW 0-0 (Serie A)

FC Zurich

September 27 v Neuchatel Xamax (H) – LOST 2-1 (Super League)

September 23 v Young Boys (A) – LOST 3-0 (Super League)

September 19 v Witikon (A) – WON 10-0 (Schweizer Cup)

September 15 v Real Madrid (H) – LOST 5-2 (Champions League)

September 12 v Grasshopper (H) – WON 4-3 (Super League)


TEAM NEWS

Milan


The injured Daniele Bonera is not registered for the Champions League, while Christian Abbiati is back to full training.

Probable Starting XI (4-3-1-2):
Storari; Abate, Nesta, Kaladze, Zambrotta; Gattuso, Pirlo, Ambrosini; Seedorf; Ronaldinho, Pato.

FC Zurich

Eric Hassli suffered a broken leg in training last week, but Daniel Stucki and Heinz Barmettler have returned from long-term injuries.

Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1):
Leoni; Stahel, Tihinen, Barmettler, Lampi; Aegerter, Gajic; Vonlanthen, Margairaz, Djuric; Nicki.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Andrea Pirlo (Milan)


The experienced midfielder will need to use his guile and creativity to carve open the Swiss defence. In addition, he will need to exploit any set piece opportunities as Milan have been criminally poor in this regard so far this season.

Johan Vonlanthen (FC Zurich)


The 23-year-old has been in red hot form for Zurich in recent weeks, scoring in six of their last eight domestic matches. His pace and skill on the ball is sure to unsettle the Rossoneri back line.


PREDICTION

While Milan can’t score, Zurich are unable to stop conceding at present. However, after a goalless draw with minnows Livorno, the Rossoneri found a performance against Marseille and they should do the same again on home territory.

Milan 2-1 FC Zurich

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