Ibrahimovic ready for 'best team in world'

Former Barcelona misfit claims his move to San Siro was beneficial to both him and his old club

The Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is looking forward to the chance to face his former team Barcelona in the Champions League tonight. The tall Swede missed the opening match at the Nou Camp in September, a 2-2 draw, because of injury. But he is fit to play this time.

"I was looking forward to that match," Ibrahimovic said. "I was disappointed, but for me playing against a former team is nothing personal. Of course, it's emotional, a big game, but in the end it's like any other game. There's no need to overhype it."

Ibrahimovic spent only one season at Barcelona after a much-hyped move from Internazionale in 2009, in a deal which saw Samuel Eto'o go the other way. He scored 16 goals in the Spanish league but often struggled to fit into Barcelona's intricate passing schemes.

"We will be playing against the best team in the world, without doubt," Ibrahimovic said. "Even when I left, I knew I'd left the best team in the world. But, for me and all the other parties involved, I think the best solution was to leave the club. Given the results for both sides, it was the best solution."

A 1-1 draw against BATE Borisov last time out meant Milan lost ground in the race for first place in Group H. Milan are two points behind Barcelona with two games left to play. But with both teams already qualified for the knockout stages, it is the chance to finish top of the group that is at stake.

Ibrahimovic has scored in the three European matches he has played for Milan this season and another good performance from the Sweden striker could allow the Italian side to jump ahead of Barcelona in the standings. "I think this game is more about prestige," Ibrahimovic said. "It's good to come first, but sometimes it's good to come second. Both can be positive or negative. When you're in the Champions League, you're bound to meet a strong team, and to win the competition you will have to beat the strong teams," he explained.

The Milan striker Antonio Cassano, who is recovering from heart surgery, turned up at the club's training ground on Monday to give the team a boost ahead of the match.

Milan will also be strengthened by the return of Alexandre Pato from injury. The Brazilian played his first game in two months in the goalless draw against Fiorentina over the weekend and hit the post in the 77th minute.

"I don't have major doubts about the team," said the Milan coach, Massimiliano Allegri, yesterday. "I have to decide who will start between Pato and Robinho, and in midfield evaluate how fit [Clarence] Seedorf is this afternoon."

Barcelona extended their unbeaten start to the season to 20 games with a 4-0 win over Zaragoza on Saturday.

"It's difficult to play against Barcelona," Allegri said. "Because the players have skills and they can change the rhythm of the game, they are good at upping the pace or making the game slower.

"We will have to be very balanced, we'll need to play a bit higher up the pitch and make sure Barcelona have less of the ball."

Barcelona beat Manchester United at Wembley last season to win the Champions League for the second time in three years, and their midfielder Xavi Hernandez said his team-mates have as much hunger as ever.

"When you win you live better, you are more respected and your cachet goes up," Xavi said. "Everything is positive when one wins. Unfortunately, a lot of footballers here have experienced the other side of the coin and it is not a nice experience. Hence we must never lose the appetite for titles. Great sportsmen always want to win and that hunger remains intact."

The Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta has a bruised left thigh and will not travel to San Siro as a precautionary measure.

Barcelona are also without the full-back Adriano and the suspended Daniel Alves. Pedro Rodriguez could play for the first time in a month after recovering from an ankle sprain.

In the other group match, BATE will host Viktoria Plzen. BATE have two points, one more than Plzen.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rob Lowe
peopleRob Lowe hits out at Obama's snub of Benjamin Netanyahu
Sport
football
News
Davies (let) says: 'Everybody thought we were having an affair. It was never true!'
people'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
News
Staff assemble outside the old City Road offices in London
mediaThe stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century at Britain's youngest paper
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us