Champions League Betting: Barcelona v Milan Preview


It's been a tough few weeks for Barcelona. Beaten twice by bitter rivals Real Madrid (and dumped out of the Spanish Cup in the process), the Catalans also allowed Milan to take control of their Champions League last 16 tie at the San Siro. Goals from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari gave the Rossoneri a 2-0 lead ahead of Tuesday's second leg. Can Barca react on home soil?

Team news

Lionel Messi should be fresh for Barcelona after starting their win over Deportivo on the bench. (He still scored in a second-half cameo. Obviously). Xavi should return from an injury that saw him sidelined at the weekend, while Victor Valdes, banned in La Liga, will start in goal. Milan face somewhat of a striker crisis after Giampaolo Pazzini got injured against Genoa. Without Mario Balotelli (cup-tied), one of M'Baye Niang (below), Bojan Krkic or Robinho is likely to be handed a starting berth in attack.


Form

Barcelona have won just four of their last nine matches - a terrible run of form by their high standards. While Lionel Messi has kept scoring, his fellow attackers - Alexis Sanchez, David Villa, Pedro - have been slightly out of sorts, meaning the Blaugrana have been less than deadly going forward. Things aren't much better at the back: Barca have kept just three clean sheets in 2013. Milan, meanwhile, are in fine nick, picking up points for fun in Italy. Their only regret will be that they started the season so poorly, thus making a scudetto challenge unlikely.

Goalscorer betting

Messi is as short as 1.38 to score, so most punters will look elsewhere for value here. Alexis Sanchez looked lively and scored at the weekend - he's available at 6.25 to open the scoring. Xavi, who takes many of Barca's free-kicks, is at 3.05 to find the net at any time. For Milan, Stephan El Shaarawy (3.60 anytime) has enjoyed a fine season, while Muntari can be backed at 35.00 to repeat his first leg trick and score last.

Verdict

Even out of form, Barcelona will expect to come out on top on home soil. This is reflected in the odds: the hosts are 1.30 to win on the night. But Milan's 2-0 victory at the San Siro puts them in pole position to go through, especially given the likelihood that the Spanish side will concede. Both teams to score (1.60) looks like the banker bet, while Milan to progress (1.62) is also worthy of consideration.

Score prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Milan (11.00)