Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta admitted he was a little disappointed with yesterday’s Champions League quarter-final after once again being paired with AC Milan.
The teams have already met in the group stage of this season’s competition, sharing a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp before Barca edged out Milan 3-2 at the San Siro. But Zubizarreta would have preferred different opponents.
“We prefer to play against new teams, sides that don’t know us as well and that we can better analyse,” he said.
“It’s Milan, and that’s that. They are a great club, with great players. We’ll have to play football well and be better than them in order to get to the semi-finals.”
Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri backed his team to perform better against the Spanish champions this time around.
“We are facing the strongest team in the world but we must believe we can do it,” Allegri said. “My players will not fear them.
“We have improved with respect to the last time we faced them. I think my side will bring out their best in this tie. We will have to put Barca under pressure and be completely focused if we are to succeed.”
The winner of the Barca-Milan match will face either Chelsea or Benfica in the last four and Roberto Di Matteo is aware of the threat posed by their Portuguese opponents.
“When you get down to the last eight teams, every draw is very difficult,” he said.
“I’ve seen Benfica many times. They were in Man United’s group and they are a tough opponent for us.”
In response to a possible semi-final meeting with Barcelona, Di Matteo added: “Are you writing off AC Milan straight away, as easy as that — the leaders of Serie A?
“It’s game by game. That’s what I’ve learnt in my playing career and managing and coaching career.”
Bayern Munich have been drawn against Marseille in another quarter-final tie and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge warned it will not be an easy ride to the final. The winner will face either surprise package APOEL Nicosia or Real Madrid, but Rummenigge is not taking anything for granted in the year the final takes place in Munich’s Allianz Arena.
“We can be happy,” he said. “It is a small advantage that we play the first leg in France — we saw that from the Basle game.
“However, I would warn against believing that it will be easy. [Borussia] Dortmund lost to them twice.
“It would be nice to have a good result from the first leg which opens the door for us, and that means we need to score there.
“Our aim is to reach the semi-finals and we have to work hard on that.”
Despite facing the competition’s underdogs in the next round, Madrid director Emiliano Butragueno is not prepared to underestimate APOEL.
“We have to be extremely respectful,” he said.
“Of course on paper there were stronger teams than APOEL, but it is the quarter-finals and they are a very strong team.”
Butragueno also refused to address the prospect of a Real-Barca final.
He said: “The final is too far ahead. We have to be very focused on the next game and try to reach the semi-finals.
“That will be a difficult tie according to the draw. After that, if we are lucky enough to reach the final then we’ll think about it.”
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