Can the Milan clubs sweep the European honours?

by James Cartwright

Stephan El Shaaraway AC MilanThe famous city in tatters, the Italian giants from the North slowing losing their power, Milan was under serious threat of losing its footballing identity. In last season’s Champions League both Milan clubs were put in their place by Barcelona and Marseille respectively. This season the tide could be turning on the European front.

AC Milan are standing in good stead to qualify for the quarter finals after beating Barcelona 2-0 in the first leg at the San Siro. The Rossoneri have had a difficult 2012-13, with some terrible early season form, however the form has slowly improved domestically with them unbeaten in eight games and playing some the best stuff in European football at the moment. Against Lazio they were ruthless as they won 3-0, the spotlight may be on Balotelli, but Giamcomo Pazzini made it shine on him in the Lazio victory, scoring a delightful brace.

With their lead so handsome after the first leg coupled with the recent poor form of Barcelona, there is real sense that Milan can march on and challenge for the Champions League title. Sulley Muntari expressed his feelings on the Champions League with optimism “Can we win the Champions League? Everything is possible and we want to give it a go,” Chelsea proved the Champions League crown is achievable even when not favoured, with Milan playing much better football than Chelsea did last season. There is every chance that Milan can sweep aside any side in the competition.

For Inter, the Europa League is the European prize on offer. After overcoming the group stages with relative ease and easily beating Cluj in the Round of 32. They face a difficult tie against Tottenham in the round of 16; the Premier League side have been on excellent form in recent weeks. In particular, their Welsh ‘wizard’: Gareth Bale. All sides of Inter have been shown in recent weeks, against Fiorentina they were exploited by Stefan Jovetic, in the Milan derby they showed their character and against Catania they showed their battling spirit as Rodrigo Palacio scored a brace for a 3-2 away win.

The Europa League could be an important tournament for Andrea Stramaccioni after impressing in the second half of last season he landed the job, but after a disappointing campaign on the whole. He has come under scrutiny on many occasions. Inter have the players for winning the Europa League, Fredy Guarin adds an extra dimension, while Rodrigo Palacio can take a game by his own hands and win it. Experienced heads could also be key; Cristian Chivu, Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso all add control to the field, when the pressure and intensity gets up in European ties. They have the ability to read the game and slow the pace: a vital attribute in European competition. A victory would not only be good for Inter, but it would be for Starmaccioni as a manager. Andre Villas Boas used the tournament to earn plaudits as a manager. Starmaccioni could easily do the same.

A Milan sweep would certainly silence the doubters of Italian football, the coefficient has took a serious battering off the Bundesliga in recent years, for the sake of Italian football they could surprise, just like their national team at Euro 2012.

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