By JOHN BOSCHINI
An inspired defensive performance from AC Milan kept Barcelona at bay during a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal tie, but things won't be nearly as easy this time around.
Barcelona have been unstoppable at home in all competitions this season, winning 20 of their 25 games at Camp Nou. However, AC Milan did manage a 2-2 draw when the two teams met in Barcelona on September 13 with Alexandre Pato and Thiago Silva getting the goals. Injuries may take their toll on both teams, with Thiago Silva and Mark Van Bommel out for AC Milan while Xavi, the Barcelona's midfield general, is a game-time decision.
In the day's other quarterfinal second leg, Bayern Munich simply have to avoid a home collapse against Marseille. The German giants were clinical in a 2-0 win in France last week. Marseille are struggling in domestic play and will need to score at least twice while holding Bayern scoreless, a feat no team has accomplished since March 3.
Here is a look ahead to both of today's Champions League games:
BARCELONA vs. AC MILAN
TV: 2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel
First Leg: Heroic defending by AC Milan and a less-than-ideal pitch at the San Siro kept the normally unstoppable Barcelona offense at bay. Barcelona, as usual, had the ball a dominating 65 percent of the time but only put the ball on frame three times. Milan missed a few chances of their own, the most egregious of which came in the first half when Robinho fluffed an open shot from six yards.
The Lowdown: In many ways, AC Milan is in an advantageous position after the scoreless first leg. A win or a draw with at least one goal apiece puts them through, so they are not faced with the task of having to outright attack from the start. Former Barcelona ace Zlatan Ibrahimovic is more than capable of a moment of brilliance, though, while Milan's defense is still a force to be reckoned with despite their age. As is typically the case when Barcelona takes tot he field, all eyes will be on 50-plus goal scorer Lionel Messi as he looks to keep the defending champions alive for another round.
BAYERN MUNICH vs. MARSEILLE
TV: 2:45 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus/FoxSoccer2Go
The First Leg: Marseille's choice of third-string goalkeeper Elinton Andrade with starter Steve Mandanda suspended was eventually their undoing, as Bayern Munich won 2-0 to take firm hold of the quarterfinal tie. Andrade's goalkeeping blunder in the 44th minute led to Mario Gomez's opener and Arjen Robben doubled the lead midway through the second half.
The Lowdown: Bayern Munich have won their last four home games by a combined score of 18-2, so it's difficult to see how Marseille will get the requisite two goals while holding Bayern scoreless. If they are to pull off the shocking comeback, Loic Remy and Andre Ayew will need to be on top form.
What do you think of today's games? Can AC Milan outclass Barcelona at Camp Nou? Will Marseille stage an epic comeback on Bayern Munich?
Share your thoughts below.