AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri said he welcomed suggestions on team selection and tactics from club president Silvio Berlusconi, adding his team would not be Champions League ‘sacrificial lambs’ against Barcelona.
Former Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi regularly comments on team selection, something which would be frowned upon at many clubs.
His latest idea was that Milan should man-mark Lionel Messi in Wednesday’s last-16 first leg tie at San Siro.
‘I have sat down and talked to the president about the game,’ said Allegri. ‘As always, he put forward his ideas and thoughts, which are sometimes brilliant and well thought out, and they are well-received.
‘I will try to put the best formation onto the pitch so we can get a good result, which is what counts.’
Milan, who held a firesale of their top players at the end of last season to try and cut costs, are seven-times European champions but are building a new team with young players and are rank outsiders in the last-16 tie.
‘Milan-Barcelona means we are facing the best team in the world but I do not accept that in the last two weeks everyone has been making us out to be the sacrificial lamb,’ said Allegri.
Milan met Barcelona in the group stage and quarter-finals last season and failed to win any of their four matches, with two draws and two wins for the Catalans.
‘In the last two years we have played well against Barcelona,’ said Allegri, who is in his third season at San Siro and won the Serie A title at the first attempt.
‘We know that at the moment they are the best team in the world but we have to try and create the elements to go through to the next round, although we know that whoever they play against they have an average of 65 per cent possession.
‘We have to try and limit their possession, making them less dangerous because they are so dangerous when they go forward.’
It will be special for Milan striker Bojan Krkic, who progressed through the ranks at Barcelona, scoring 41 goals in 163 appearances.
Mario Balotelli, who has netted four goals in three matches since his tumultuous Manchester City career ended last month, will not be eligible to play because he has already represented his former club in the competition.
Barca’s Xavi Hernandez is ready to play after being sidelined for the last two weeks with a left calf injury. Striker David Villa, however, did not make the squad after spending last week in and out of the hospital with a painful case of kidney stones. Defender Adriano will also miss the game with a right leg injury.
Barcelona will have Lionel Messi, however.
It will be a poignant affair for interim coach Jordi Roura as he returns to the stadium where he suffered an injury that ultimately forced him to end his career.
He leads Barca in the last-16 first leg tie in the absence of Tito Vilanova, who is recovering from throat surgery, just over 23 years after Roura damaged ligaments in his right knee during a Supercup game involving the same two clubs.
Although Roura, who was 22 at the time, continued playing for several more years he was never the same and was shunted around lower-tier clubs Murcia, Figueres and finally Sant Andreu before quitting.
‘After the injury I couldn’t play football any more. Milan had a great team then. I have returned several times since then as part of the Barcelona staff. A lot has happened since, life always gives you more opportunities,’ said Roura.
‘It’s always nice for someone who likes football to come to this stadium although it is always a daunting prospect to play Milan here.’
Roura had a low-profile coaching career before being thrown into the spotlight thanks to Barca’s policy of stability and promoting from within. He had a workmanlike career in the Spanish lower leagues which reached a low point when he was fired by third-tier Hospitalat in 2007.
When Vilanova’s predecessor Pep Guardiola took over at Barca, Roura joined the staff to watch future opponents, but has stepped up.