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?
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
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.

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment