Lunedì, 24 Settembre 2018
ROME

Soccer: Milan ponder how to stop Messi

English
© ANSA

Rome, February 19 - The build-up to AC Milan's
Champions League last-16 first leg against Bercelona at the San
Siro Stadium on Wednesday has been dominated by one question -
how to stop Argentine ace Lionel Messi?
Many have tried, but few have succeeded, as shown by the
25-year-old crossing the 300-goal mark for Barcelona with his
double in Saturday's 2-1 win at Granada in the Spanish top
flight.
Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi's solution is simple - mark
Messi out of the game.
The three-time Italian premier first suggested putting a
man marker on the four-time Ballon d'Or winner on Monday.
The idea was dismissed by several figures in the game,
including Juventus boss Antonio Conte, who said a "rifle" was
needed to stop Messi, who is arguably the best dribbler the
sport has seen, not man-marking.
So former Italian premier Berlusconi, who is leading the
centre right's campaign for next Sunday and Monday's general
election, upped the ante on the day before the game by
suggesting two men keep tabs in him.
'You stop Messi with two men on top of him,' Berlusconi
told Radio 105.
'Maybe you have one player each half. If one gets too
tired, the other takes over,' he added later on one of his
Mediaset TV channels.
'A special tactic is needed against Barcelona, which can be
done by one person or sometimes two'.
Berlusconi added that French midfielder Mathieu Flamini
could mark the danger man with the help of Ghanaian teammate
Sulley Muntari, although this part of his plan took a setback
when the team doctor said Flamini has a physical problem.
Fellow midfielder Antonio Nocerino is a doubt too because
of a minor leg-muscle strain.
While some pundits said the flaw in Berlusconi's logic is
that Messi will escape from his markers anyway, others pointed
out that Barca, who are 12 points clear at the top of the
Spanish first division, are not a one-man show.
Among them is Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, who thanked
Berlusconi for his tips, but did not promise to use them.
'It's clear that I see the squad every day and I'll give the
lads their instructions on how best to face Barcelona,' the
coach told a press conference.
'Messi makes a difference (for his team) but he's not the
only one.
'(Spain midfielder Andres) Iniesta is one of the best
assist providers in the world. We'll have to be good at marking
them and limiting them'.
Milan endured a tough start to the season after selling
their best players, Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazil
defender Thiago Silva, to Paris Saint Germain in the close
season.
They have been revitalised by the arrival of Mario
Balotelli, who has scored four goals in three games since moving
from Manchester City last month.
But they are unable to field the Italy striker against
Barca as he has played for English champions City in the
competition earlier in the season.
The good news for Allegri is that 20-year-old Italy striker
Stephan El Shaarawy, Milan's top scorer with 15 Serie A goals
this season, should be able to play after a knee knock.
'We are playing against the best in the world and we have
to create the conditions to go beyond the last 16, while being
aware that on average Barcelona have 65% of the possession,
whether they are playing against Real Madrid, Milan or anyone
else,' said Allegri.
'We have to try to make their possession a little more
sterile because they have players who are quite good'.
Allegri's men were knocked out by Barcelona in the
quarter-finals last season after facing them twice in the group
stage - drawing one game and losing the other.
Milan can take heart from the memory of the 1994 European
Cup final, when Milan thrashed the sweet-passing 'dream team'
Barcelona side trained by Johan Cruyff 4-0.

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