Antonio Nocerino of AC Milan and Alexis Sanchez of FC Barcelona compete for the ball during the UEFA Champions League group H match between AC Milan and FC Barcelona at Giuseppe Meazza Stadium in Milan, Italy. The play in the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals on March 28, 2012. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
AC Milan are dealing with injury troubles, and their backup defenders will need to step up against Barcelona.
When AC Milan and Barcelona last met, they played one of the games of the season at the San Siro. With the top spot in their UEFA Champions League group on the line, Barcelona took the lead twice, with Milan equalizing twice. Kevin-Prince Boateng's second equalizer was an absolute stunner, among the best goals scored anywhere this season. Xavi scored the eventual winner, finishing off a spectacular assist by Lionel Messi.
This game followed a 2-2 draw between the two teams at Camp Nou in the first round of Champions League group stage play. If those games are any indication of what the quarterfinal tie between the two teams might be like, it's going to be spectacular.
Unfortunately for Milanistas, their team is missing two of their best defenders. Central defender Thiago Silva and right back Ignazio Abate are both out. Either Daniele Bonera or Gianluca Zambrotta will play right back, while Alessandro Nesta partners Philippe Mexès in defense. Going forward, Clarence Seedorf and Boateng are back from injury, but Alexandre Pato is still unavailable for selection.
Barcelona are dealing with some injury issues of their own. Not only is Eric Abidal out for the season -- and probably done with his career -- but Adriano is also out. This leaves Barcelona with no true first-team left back. Carles Puyol played left central defense for Barcelona on the weekend in a 3-4-3. Pep Guardiola is likely to stick with that formation, meaning that Daniel Alves is likely to start on the bench or at right forward. If Guardiola feels the need to play a natural left back, he has talented B-team player Marc Muniesa available.
Xavi was rested at the weekend and will come back into Pep's team. Andrés Iniesta is likely to start and Sergio Busquets will anchor the midfield. The other four starting spots are a bit of a mystery. Lionel Messi will almost certainly play in the middle instead of on the right, and it will be interesting to see whether or not there is any place in the team for Cesc Fabregas or Thiago Alcântara.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, March 28, 2:45 p.m. ET, 8:45 p.m. local
Venue: Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Milan, Italy
TV: FOX Soccer Channel (USA), Sportsnet Regional (Canada), Sky Sports 1 (UK)