AC Milan sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli has aimed a cheeky jibe at Arsenal after the clubs were drawn together in the last 16 of the Europa League. The two clubs last met in the Champions League in the 2011-12 campaign where the Italian giants progressed 4-3 on aggregate over two legs.
Both teams have been going through a sticky patch this season, but Milan seem to have steadied their ship following the appointment of manager Gennaro Gattuso, overseeing a run of four straight matches including two 1-0 victories over Bulgarians Ludogorets in the previous round in Europe. They are currently in the seventh spot – eight points behind Lazio in the fourth place.
The Gunners are also struggling in the league, in the sixth spot, eight points behind fourth with 11 games left in the season. The north London club made it to the next round by edging past Swedish minnows Östersunds on Thursday (22 February) after losing 2-1 in the second leg.
A 3-0 win in Sweden was enough to win them the tie but the Gunners have to prepare better if they are to make any progress in the competition against Milan. However, Mirabelli believes that Milan are overwhelming favourites going into the tie and said they are excited to face a big club like Arsenal at this stage.
"I'm sorry for Arsenal, who I'm sure would have liked to have continued in Europe," said Mirabelli, as quoted by the Mirror. "It would have been a nice final, but I'm happy. It's best to face a big club like Arsenal now. We needed opponents like these."
Milan's club manager Christian Abbiati was also excited after the draw and expects a fascinating encounter on all fronts. However, he is wary of how things transpired at the Emirates in 2012, where they lost 3-0, and insists that they need to prepare properly to avoid another debacle.
"Facing Arsenal is a fascinating encounter," he said. "It's bound to be a great tie. It was a disaster at London, where we lost 3-0, but in the end, we made it through. I hope we don't see the same mistakes this time. Milan are in good form at the moment with some good results and I hope we can keep it up."