herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Pep's air raid warning

Barca boss puts side on high alert over danger from 6ft 5" Ibrahimovic

PEP Guardiola has told his players they must negate the aerial threat of Zlatan Ibrahimovic or risk the consequences.

The Barca boss says 6' 5" tall Ibrahimovic is unstoppable if he is given too much possession and wants his players to cut off the supply to the big Swede.

The Catalans will be reunited with their former striker, who left the Nou Camp on bad terms at the end of the 2009-10 season, when they visit the San Siro for their Champions League quarter-final first leg tonight.

"We have to deactivate Ibra and Milan by monopolising possession of the ball," said Guardiola.

"He is a very strong player, especially in the air.

"He is unstoppable if he participates a lot in the match.

"We owe him part of a league title. His first six months (at Barcelona) were very good."

Having left Barcelona after only one unfulfilling season, Ibrahimovic launched a stinging attack on Guardiola, saying he could not understand why their relationship had broken down so dramatically.

Ibrahimovic is still sore over his departure from the Nou Camp and has questioned whether he would even shake the Spaniard's hand.

"Will I extend my hand to Guardiola? I don't know, we've other things to think about.

"It's not a big problem. I'll do my thing and he'll do his," he said.

"If we want to win titles, we have to win these sort of games.

"We have to think about stopping all the Barcelona players, not only Messi.

"As they will have to stop all of the Milan players, not just me."

The volatile Swede has enjoyed an excellent season with Milan, scoring 22 goals in Serie A and five in the Champions League. Guardiola refused to accept that his side, who won 3-2 at San Siro in a group stage match when Ibrahimovic was on target, were overwhelming favourites to knock out the injury-hit Serie A leaders.

"The only certainty is that if you don't play too good games, you don't go to the semi-finals," he said.

"I expect the best possible Milan team in one of the world's great stadiums.

"I try to transmit to the players the message that they must not let up after winning so much.

"I wouldn't want us to betray ourselves, knowing that we could be knocked out as a result."

Meanwhile, AC Milan have ruled out the possibility of adopting a defensive approach tonight in a bid to quell Barca's significant attacking threat.

Milan's city rivals Inter managed to beat Barcelona over two legs, when managed by Jose Mourinho two seasons ago, largely due to ultra-defensive tactics, but Allegri said that was not his side's style and they would attack from the off.

"It's difficult for us to play a match in the style of Mourinho's Inter, they were a more physical side," Allegri told reporters.

"We will face Barcelona with courage, motivation and serenity.

"We have to try and make as few mistakes as possible and play with an attacking mentality."

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