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Champions League preview: Win or bust for Barca

Cesc Fabregas is set to return as Pep Guardiola’s side prepare for a crucial Champions League quarter-final with Milan.

A loss or a draw would not be good enough for Barca tonight.
A loss or a draw would not be good enough for Barca tonight.

ONLY A WIN will do for Barcelona when they host AC Milan at the Camp Nou in their Champions League quarter-final second leg on Wednesday.

The holders looked lethargic in the sides’ goalless draw at the San Siro a week ago and while Lionel Messi and co could not manoeuvre their way around Milan’s miserly defence, many at the club blamed a pitch described as ‘unacceptable’ for the result.

Now, in the safe confines of the Camp Nou with an ‘even’ pitch, there will be no excuses for Pep Guardiola’s side, who have won 17 consecutive games at home.

Curiously, the last time they were held in front of their faithful in the Champions League was back in September of last year against AC Milan.

A score draw is all Serie A leaders Milan need in Spain, but they will need to find a result without key defensive pillars Thiago Silva and Mark van Bommel, who are both injured.

For Barcelona, Carlos Puyol, rested in their 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday and used in a left-back role in the first leg, will undoubtedly return to the side on Wednesday while Cesc Fabregas is also available.

“We’ve dealt with it and today he (Fabregas) was better. So, even though we were forced to leave him out he will be there against Milan on Tuesday,” Guardiola said after the Bilbao match.

Barcelona still have faint hopes of reining in La Liga leaders Real Madrid but will be otherwise preoccupied as they attempt to win back-to-back Champions Leagues.

Jose Mourinho’s men were in formidable form in their 5-1 win over Osasuna on Saturday that arrested two straight losses but with the El Classico yet to be played, Barcelona remain in the hunt.

Massimiliano Allegri’s plan to stifle Barcelona worked a treat in the first leg, with veteran Alessandro Nesta and Daniel Bonera, in particular, hard to breach in defence.

Doing that again will be a tough ask as few sides have been able to keep Barcelona’s attacking armoury at the Camp Nou at bay for long.

In Serie A, Milan threw away a 1-0 lead against Catania to eventually draw 1-1 and see their four-game winning streak come to a halt.

Former Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be the key for Milan with his strength and power making him unplayable at times.

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