MILAN (Sporting Alert) — Lionel Messi will return to the Barcelona starting lineup for the Champions League Group H clash with AC Milan at San Siro (Giuseppe Meazza) on Tuesday night.
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Messi started on the bench on Saturday in the La Liga game against Osasuna, which ended 0-0, but Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino will recall the Argentine forward for this fixture.
Also set for recalls are defenders Gerard Pique and Dani Alves and forward Alexis Sanchez as Martino look to field a strong team against a very tough AC Milan side.
“Milan will play to win, and it will not be a formality for us,” the coach said. “We are up against a team with a great tradition, they’re too big an institution to take lightly so we’ll start thinking about Real Madrid [Barcelona’s opponents next weekend] on Wednesday.
“It will be a tough match. We’re facing a very important club, we feel a big responsibility, but we feel the same feelings in every game.”
AC Milan is expected to have forward Mario Balotelli in the lineup after the Italian striker took part in practice on Monday after a thigh problem forced him out of the 1-0 win over Udinese at the weekend.
“Mario Balotelli is feeling better,” Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri revealed. “We’ll see after training whether he will be able to play.
The boss also confirmed that Philippe Mexès and Nigel de Jong are both available.
“Philippe Mexès and Nigel de Jong are available,” he said.
He added about the clash: “It will be a fascinating game for everybody. We need to play with courage and sacrifice against the best team in the world to get three points and increase our chances of qualifying.
“We must try to make as few mistakes as possible. Barcelona will have the ball more than us, so we have to play a game similar to last year’s home tie [in the last 16 which Milan won 2-0].”
Match fact – UEFA.com
• Milan won 2-0 at San Siro in the first leg of last season’s round of 16 encounter, Kevin-Prince Boateng (57) and Sulley Muntari (81) the scorers. Barcelona hit back, however, with four unanswered goals at the Camp Nou, Messi (5, 40), David Villa (55) and Jordi Alba (90) securing a 4-2 aggregate success.