Statement of intent
Arsenal won't knock Milan out of Europe, says Ray Wilkins, but they can show that they're a team on the up.
Last Updated: 06/03/12 10:59am
Arsenal v Milan, 7pm, Tue, Sky Sports 2 HD and Sky 3D
I don't give Arsenal a prayer of turning this tie around.
But you can bet that the Gunners aren't thinking that way and if they can score inside the first 20 minutes you just never know what might happen.
Arsenal will be full of confidence having got five at Tottenham and beating Liverpool in their last two Premier League games and that momentum could see them put in a cracking show against Milan.
Football can kick you in the groin at times and it did to Milan in the quarter-finals of the 2003/04 Champions League.
The Italians built up a 4-1 lead over Deportivo la Coruna in the first match but capitulated 4-0 in the second leg and went out. This is a different Milan team but a few early goals for Arsenal and the seeds of doubt may start to creep in.
Arsenal played Tomas Rosicky in a wide position at the San Siro, but with them having to score plenty in this game they may opt for two out-and-out wingers, probably Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
I'm expecting to see a really positive Arsenal; they'll lob people forward, create chances and, hopefully, a few will fly in.
Arsene Wenger's men won't find it easy in the middle of the park, though, where they will come up against the veteran Mark van Bommel.
The Dutchman is so intelligent and he will pull the other two central midfielders - Antonio Nocerino and one other - in tight. He may lack pace but he was wonderful for Holland against England last week and will not get exposed.
Milan will be buoyant after they won 4-0 at Palermo on Saturday, a notoriously difficult place to go. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a first-half hat-trick, but he could find goals harder to come by when he faces up to Wojciech Szczêsny, who has consistently proved this term what a magnificent goalkeeper he is.
Max Allegri has really galvanised Milan since he took charge in the summer of 2010; they won Serie A last season and are going great guns again this year, while they are more vibrant than they used to be.
I also like the way Allegri utilises the experienced players in his squad, like Clarence Seedorf, van Bommel and Alessandro Nesta. They might not all play every week, but the younger members of the side can fall back on them when needs be which is vital for any successful club, especially one chasing the Champions League crown.
Milan should keep that dream alive this week, but it is also a great game for Arsenal to showcase to Robin van Persie and potential new signings - they have been linked with Cologne's Lukas Podolski - that they are a top team and that the future is bright.
Arsenal won't go through but they can make a huge statement.
Benfica v Zenit, 7.30pm, Tue, Sky Sports 4 HD
When the Stadium of Light is buzzing it is a great place to be. It won't be easy for Benfica who trail 3-2 from the first leg in Russia , but I'm going to back them to nick it because they look to have a tad more quality than Zenit. If Benfica do go through, they will test anyone but the fact that they don't play against top-quality in the Portuguese league every week will count against them when they came up against the big boys.
APOEL v Lyon, 7pm, Wed, Sky Sports 1 HD
APOEL get fantastic support at their home ground, the GSP Stadium. The place is smaller than a lot of big-name players are used to, but when it's full it is absolutely rocking; it's almost like there are cheerleaders in the stands. Just getting to where APOEL are at the moment is like they have won the Champions League but I don't think this tie is over. The Cypriots can overturn their 1-0 defeat from the first leg.
Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen
Leverkusen's task is scary. They got a good result at the weekend, beating Bayern Munich 2-0, but to turn around a 3-1 first-leg deficit at the Camp Nou is practically impossible. Leverkusen only have themselves to blame, however, because if they had played as positively in the second half of game one as they did in the first, they might have only been beaten by one goal and had a sniff. Now, I'm quite sure Barcelona will win comfortably.