Arsenal to beat Milan: it's a certainty says former Gunner Paul Merson
By Jem Maidment While Arsenal are arguably the last major European big-hitter not to have lifted the Champions League trophy, AC Milan have done it on no less than seven occasions. The Italians arrive in London on Wednesday for a Champions League clash w
By Jem Maidment
While Arsenal are arguably the last major European big-hitter not to have lifted the Champions League trophy, AC Milan have done it on no less than seven occasions.
The Italians arrive in London on Wednesday for a Champions League clash with a record bettered only by Real Madrid,
Yet former Gunner Paul Merson smells Italian blood. "We'll beat them over two legs, absolutely 100 per cent nailed-on," the enigmatic former Gunner confidently told Ham&High Sport ahead of next Wednesday's first knockout stage, first-leg clash.
"For me, Arsenal are a certainty to go through."
Merson's optimism stems from the rise and rise of Wenger's Young Guns - and the demise of an elderly Milan side limping through an underwhelming Serie A season.
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"AC Milan are getting old and in the past year or so, despite that win over Liverpool in Greece last May, it is beginning to show. They look a tired side," he added.
"We will find it easier than people are expecting. In the group stages they played Celtic and, to be honest, they hardly ripped them apart."
While Merson may be super confident of Arsenal progressing to the last eight, manager Arsene Wenger will be mindful two Brazilians - missing in previous weeks - will play on Wednesday.
World Player of the Year Kaka is nearly fully recovered from a knee complaint and his compatriot Alexandre Pato - an 18-year-old attacking livewire who announced himself on the Serie A stage with four goals in six games - needs treatment on an ankle.
"The condition of his ankle is better today," said the club's medical officer Jean-Pierre Meersseman at their Milanello training complex. "He can walk without pain and we are optimistic. I think he can recover in time for the Arsenal trip."
One other newboy for Kolo Toure and William Gallas to keep a beady eye on is 18-year-old Alberto Paloschi.
The teenager scored 18 seconds into his debut against Siena on Sunday and, after just 28 minutes of Serie A football, is being tipped to replace Ronaldo, a mere shadow of his former self and struggling with fitness and form since moving from Real Madrid.
But Merson says it is Arsenal's youngsters who will shine. "They are made for the Champions League," he said. "I have said so all along, I expect them to get through comfortably over the two legs. This is Arsenal's time."
A FULLER VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THIS WEEK'S HAM&HIGH, OUT NOW.