Tigerish Milan defending and donkeyish finishing from both sides
Charlie Chaplin, Haile Selassie, Matt Groening, Niccolo Machiavelli, Neil Armstrong, Albert Einstein, Indira Gandhi, Judas Priest, McDonald's, John Coltrane, Marie Curie, Lady Godiva, Bill Gates, Cleopatra, Tintin, IBM, Jesus Christ, Meat Loaf, Thomas Crapper, Rob Smyth and Interpol.
Like all of the above, AC Milan and FC Barcelona require no introduction. Which is handy.
Abbiati; Bonera, Nesta, Mexexs, Antonini; Nocerino, Ambrosini, Seedorf; Robinho, Boateng, Ibrahimovic.
Subs: Amelia, Mesbah, Maxi Lopez, Emanuelson, Yepes, El Shaarawy
Barcelona: Victor Valdes; Daniel Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol; Xavi, Busquets, Keita, Iniesta; Messi, Alexis Sanchez
Subs: Pinto, Fabregas, Rodriguez, Alcanatara, Muniesa, Montoya, Tello
Ref: J Eriksson (Sweden)
The San Siro is packed with people and festooned with flags, banners and tinsel and even the air is crackling. The atmosphere could not be better. Let's hope the match lives it up to its billing.
A quick glance at the bookies' website tells me Milan are 5-1 to win this. Anyone think that's worth a punt?
1 min: Barcelona kick off ... let's count how long it takes for Milan to get a touch.
24 seconds: Promising for the Serie A leaders, as Bonera gives them in an early touch by nipping in front of Keita to win the ball.
3 min: What a miss! And what appalling defending by Barça! Busquets gave the ball away uncharacteristically and suddenly Milan had a clear sight of goal. Boateng's shot from the edge of the area was blocked by Pique and rebounded high up into the air. When it came down Ibrahimovich nodded it across to Robinho, who was standing all by himself right in front of the goal, barely six yards out. And he performed an atrocious volley high over the bar! Seldom will anyone get a better chance agasint Barcelona, and seldom will anyone miss it by as much.
5 min: Barça have a freekick on the cusp of the box. Milan erect a six-man wall. Messi slips as he attempts to kick it, misdirecting his attempted shot towards Keita, who nids wide from an offside position. A surprisingly shambolic start to the game by the Catalans.
8 min: Barça are beginning to get into their groove. After a period of prolonged possession, they work it to Messi on the left-hand side of the box. The Argentine imp's shot comes a-bobblin' at the keeper, who spills it and is lucky that Iniesta's rebound is off target.
11 min: Boateng bounds down the left before attempting to infiltrate the Barça box. He is ushered away by Mascherano. "I honestly believe Milan will beat Barca," thunders Michael Phillip. "Possession only needs a priest to exorcise the demon and Milan is the priest to do it." What does that mean?
13 min: Ambrosini clatters into Messi from behind, effectively ordering the referee to give Barcelona a freekick. It's about 30 yards out and quite central. Dani Alves fancies a crack ...
14 min: Dani Alves dummied it instead Barça pulled off a cute rehearsed move, with Busquets feeding the ball through to Alexis Sanchez. Abiatti comes charging out and hurls himself at Alexis Sanchez's feet. The Chilean knocks the ball past him and is poleaxed ... Barça demand a penalty but the ref waves plays on. He might have got into his head somehow that Barça players like to dive ...
18 min: Messi nudges a Dani Alves cross into the net from close range ... and from an offside position. No goal. But ominous signs for Milan here.
20 min: More bad finishing! Ambrosini dispossessed Xavi in midfield, whereupon Seedorf immediately played in Ibrahimovic, who shoots straight at the keeper. Milan should be in front by now but they've missed two glaring opportunities.
23 min: Seedorf booked for a late swipe at Xavi.
26 min: "I'm watching the game in a cafe in Taroudant, Morocco," announces Gavin McGowan. "All the seats are packed together in rows like a cinema. They're mad for Barça here. I was in the Astlas mountains earlier today and saw a bloke on a donkey in a Xavi shirt. From a straw pole I'd say the ratio of Barça-Real fans is 4:1. I'd like to offer a deep socio-political rason for this, based perhaps on a history of colonialism which manifests itself in sympathy with the Catalan cause, but in truth it seems that like the rest of the world everyone just loves the way Barça play." Right on cue, Xavi and Messi combine slickly to cut right through the heart of Milan ... before Xavi fires softly at Abbiati.
28 min: Barca have taken control now, monopolising possession in familiar fashion.
30 min: Dani Alves attempts to control a loose ball ... but instead knees it out of play and stares at it like a mum who has just been punched by her toddler. Simply baffled by the ball's treachery.
32 min: Iniesta pierces the Milan defence with a clever reverse pass. Sanchez then tried to backheel the ball to Messi ... when all he had to do was take it under control himself and shoot from 15 yards.
34 min: Splendid tackle by Antonini to thwart Alexis Sanchez, who had raced into the box and seemed set to score, only for the defender to stretch out a leg and block his shot. Moments prior to that Messi had finished weakly after another flowing Barça move.
37 min: Barça continue hogging the ball. "The Spanish don't have a terribly good track record with donkeys but putting one in a Xavi shirt seems a bit OTT," Bellows Rob Jacques of the comment on 26 mins. "Can't rid my mind of the idea of donkey tikka." It does seems a touch oxymoronic, like Emile Heskey in a tutu.
40 min: Milan reaquaint themelves with the Barça half. There's a vaguely nostalgic look about them, like pensioners returning to their old primary school. But they still have enough bearings to remember to shoot, but Ibrahimovich's effort is blocked easily by Busquets and trickles into the keeper's arms.
43 min: Bang! Xavi pounes on a breaking ball and lets fire from the edge of the area. Over the bar it goes.
45 min: There ends the first half. In many ways it went as expected, other than both team's curious lack of polish in front of goal. Milan, in particular squanderered two superb chances but Barça, for all their slinky build-up play, have also goofed in the box. Hard to see this finishing goalless, however. "Am I the only one who thinks Carlos Puyol looks more and more like Mel Gibson in the latter's portrayal of William Wallace." balres Aswhin Dubey. "Also, the Milan defence has been fantastic till now. I wish their offence would shape up a bit. At least three chances missed (all better than any Barca have had till now)."
Question: "Are we certain it was a donkey and not a burro?" wonders Luke Crane of the creature that made its appearance in this here mbm in the 26th minute. "The donkey would have the size but surely the burro would be better suited for mountainous paths."
"The commentators here in India have been complaining that the (poor) state of the pitch is not helping Barca's game," reveals Deepu Sebastian Edmond. "Do not see this mentioned in the MBM. Messi slipping, and after the Arsenal game and Wenger's complaint, I'd have thought they would have done something about the turf. I know about the Inter-Milan sharing thing, but isn't this unacceptable? C'mon, this 'aint the Delhi Commonwealth Games!" There have been a couple of slips and bobbles but the pitch looks in much better nick than it was for the Arsenal game.
46 min: The game has resumed. And Barcelona's possession play has also resumed. Milan on the back foot again. "What on earth is Michael Phillip thundering on about?! [11 mins]" blasts Peter Oh. "Milan are The Exorcist, and Barca are a possessed girl sitting on a hospital bed with her head rotating backwards?! I think not! I prefer to think of Barca as Al Pacino sitting in a bar with a shotgun under the table whilst Milan have just blindly barged in through the door."
47 min: Iniesta collects the ball wide on the left, cuts inside and fires wide from 20 yards.
49 min: Masherano nicks the ball off Robinho as Milan venture forward for the first time in the half. Suddenly Barça have a chance to counter but Dani Alvex stops and kicks the ball out of play so that his fellow Brazilian can receive treatment that he doesn't seem to need, as suggested by the fact that he returns to the pitch after two seconds. This putting the ball out of play carry-on must stop: let the ref halt the game if he thinks a player is injured.
52 min: Milan substitution: Robinho off, El Shaarawy on.
55 min: It is, would you believe, becoming quite scrappy. Lots of niggly fouls too.
57 min: After a good bit if Milan pressure, Barça won the ball back and ripped forward until Nesta chopped down Messi with an outrageous tackle some 25 yards from goal. He gets a booking but such sinister play - designed solely to kill a move - should be punished with a red in my view.
59 min: Messi curls a freekick just over the bar from 25 yards.
61 min: Keita booked for doing a Nesta on Ambrosini. "What on earth is Peter Oh thundering on about? [46 mins]" gobs Phil Sawyer. "Barca sitting in a bar with a shotgun under the table? No, Barca have spent the equivalent of years with that blinding helmet on that Luke Skywalker wore on the Millenium Falcon, learning to wield a lightsaber with Han Solo sneering from the sidelines 'give me a good blaster any day', while Pep Wan Kenobi observes loftily that the blaster is such a clumsy weapon."
63 min: This is absorbing and all that, but a goal would be good.
65 min: Barcelona substitution: Iniesta off, Tello on.
67 min: Clearly Milan were not expectign Barça to whack their corner into the box, sensing instead they would go for a short one as usual. But the visitors took them by surprise and Puyol was left with a free header from 12 yards. But he couldn't adjust his leap properly and nutted it backwards.
68 min: Milan chance: Boateng off, Emmanuelson on.
70 min: Ambrosini booked for Ambrosini-esque behaviour.
71 min: Lots of emails about the poor state of the pitch and it is indeed shoddy (although, as I said, it doesn't look quite as bad as it was when Arsenal came to town) but a bigger factor is Barça's failure to properly click tonight has been the humungous work-rate and defending of Milan. So far.
73 min: Barça converge on the Milan box but again the hosts prevent them from finding space for a clear shot and eventually Tello tonks a hopeful effort into the side-netting from an acute angle.
74 min: Milan change: Nesta totters off, Mesbah enters.
76 min: Barcelona sub: Sanchez off, Rodriguez on. Match has stalled somewhat, with Barcelona not feeling the need to take any risks, what with the next leg being in the Nou Camp, and Milan unable to do anything more than they are currently doing.
78 min: Puyol throws himself at a Xavi near-post corner, and his glancing header flies just wide of the far post.
81 min: Tello dodges his way past Antonini and into the box but Abbiati hurtles off his line to smother the danger.
83 min: There'll be vendors selling t-shirts and popcorn along any moment now that Barça have set up camp outside the Milan box. But still they can't get off a decent shot, such is the superb closing down of the hosts.
88 min: More valiant Milan defending! Messi wriggled his way into the box and got off a low shot that Abbiati could only parry. Tello hared in to try to convert thge rebound but Antonini threw himself in front of the ball to pull off a briliant block!
90 min: There will be at least three more minutes says the fourth official, who is really just a glorified version of the woman in skimy shorts who parades around boxing rings with the round number.
90+2 min: Xavi drags a long shot wide.
Full-time: An engrossing enough game that ended without a goal because of some superb Milan defending and feeble finishing by both sides.