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AC Milan and Arsenal must strike the right balance between defence and attack in the first leg of their last-16 showdown in the UEFA Champions League.

With knockout competition now the name of the game in European football, it is imperative that the right tactical approach is taken.

While a two-legged tie cannot be settled in the space of 90 minutes, it is possible to set up a surge towards the next round or leave yourself with a mountain to climb.

The dilemma facing AC Milan heading into their first meeting with Arsenal is whether to keep things tight at the back and ensure that the contest remains evenly poised in the return leg, or look to establish a commanding lead on home soil.

For the Gunners, a trip to Italy offers the chance to snatch an all-important away goal and claim the upper hand ahead of a home date at Emirates Stadium on 6th March.

History would appear to favour the Premier League side, as they have never been eliminated by Italian opposition over the course of a two-legged tie.

Their only previous meeting with AC Milan in the Champions League saw them claim a notable Serie A scalp, with a goalless draw in London followed by a 2-0 win in Italy.

In fact, Arsenal have won both of their two Champions League games to date at the San Siro, with Inter Milan having been crushed 5-1 back in 2003.

AC Milan will also need no reminding that they have fallen to English opposition at the last-16 stage in each of their last three attempts, failing to score in five of those six fixtures.

The Rossoneri will be looking to right those wrongs this season, but they have won only four of their last 19 matches in the Champions League – with those victories coming against Auxerre (twice), Viktoria Plzen and BATE Borisov.

Team news

Arsenal will be without Per Mertesacker on Wednesday as the German centre-half suffered an ankle injury against Sunderland on Saturday.

Kieran Gibbs is fit again following a groin problem, and could slot in at left-back allowingThomas Vermaelen to move across into his favoured role alongside Laurent Koscielny, while Switzerland international Johan Djourou is another option.

Striker Thierry Henry, who came off the bench to score a stoppage-time winner at the Stadium of Light, takes in the final fixture of his loan spell before returning to New York Red Bulls.

Gervinho has finished international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations, but the Ivory Coastforward, who missed a penalty in the final shoot-out defeat to Zambia, is not due back until later this week.

Defenders Carl Jenkinson (back) and Andre Santos (ankle) are still out, along with midfielders Abou Diaby (hamstring) and Jack Wilshere (ankle).

AC Milan have also been struggling with injuries lately.

Defenders Alessandro Nesta, Mario Yepes, Brazil forward Pato, one-time Tottenham midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng and former Arsenal utility man Mathieu Flamini have all now returned to training, but are unlikely to start on Wednesday after lengthy spells out.

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