Thierry Henry is set for his Arsenal farewell as the final game of his loan from the New York Red Bulls will come on a grand stage — a UEFA Champions League knockout stage match at the San Siro in Milan.
Arsenal takes on AC Milan in the most-anticipated Round of 16 knockout tie among the eight pairings. Arsenal and Chelsea are England's final hopes of a European champion, but they'll both need to get by Italian competition to advance to the quarterfinals, as Chelsea was paired with Napoli.
In the day's earlier match, Benfica will look to maintain the momentum it has from the group stage during its road encounter with Russian outfit Zenit-St. Petersburg.
Here's a closer look at Wednesday's UCL matches:
ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG VS. BENFICA
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 12 p.m.
GROUP STAGE: Benfica emerged as the surprise winner of Group C, playing Manchester United to draws on two occasions to finish ahead of runner-up FC Basel and the Red Devils. Zenit did not have the most inspiring group run, but did enough to fend off Porto, defeating the Portuguese side in their first encounter before holding it to a scoreless draw in the all-important group finale.
THE LOWDOWN: Freezing conditions in Russia will take their toll on this match, which may have to be postponed if the field is deemed unplayable. Zenit will hope to maintain its success against Portuguese opposition, but Benfica is the clear favorite in this tie. Currently in a great run of form as winners of 11 straight in all competition and comfortably atop the Primeira Liga table, just stemming the tide in frigid conditions should be enough to carry into the home leg.
AC MILAN VS. ARSENAL
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 2:45 p.m.
GROUP STAGE: Even with their early struggles in league play, Arsenal maintained enough success to capture a tightly contested Group F that contained Marseille, Olympiakos and Borussia Dortmund. Milan finished behind Barcelona in Group H but held the defending champions to a draw in their group-opening match at the San Siro.
THE LOWDOWN: The end of Henry's loan spell is certainly a major story line, but this matchup pits two of the world's most in-form strikers — Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robin van Persie — against each other. The two frontline stalwarts are more likely to have a major impact on the outcome than the Red Bulls striker, who has found the back of the net three times during his loan, including two match-winners.
Who do you see winning Wednesday's UCL matches? What's your prediction for how Henry's final Arsenal performance unfolds?
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