AC Milan sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli said that he felt “sorry for Arsenal” after they were given a trip to the San Siro in the Europa League round of 16.
Following the draw live on the Serie A club’s Facebook page from their Milanello training centre, Mirabelli responded to a draw which he feels ticks all the boxes.
“I’m sorry for Arsenal, who I’m sure would have liked to have continued in Europe,” he said. “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.”
Christian Abbiati, Milan’s club manager, told Sky Sport Italia: “Facing Arsenal is a fascinating encounter. It’s bound to be a great tie.”
Abbiati was between the posts for the Rossoneri when the two sides met in the Champions League round of 16 in 2012, with Arsenal nearly overturning a 4-0 defeat in Milan by winning 3-0 in London.
“It was a disaster at London, where we lost 3-0, but in the end, we made it through,” Abbiati said. “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.
“This is definitely not the same Arsenal as back then and we meet them in what is a positive moment for us, even if we’ve got lots of games coming up with the league and the Coppa Italia. Playing games like this motivates you by itself.”
Like in 2012, Milan will be at home for the first game on March 8 before travelling to the Emirates Stadium for the second leg a week later.
Both teams are sixth in their respective leagues, with Milan eight points behind the Serie A top four and qualification for the Champions League next season and Arsenal the same distance behind fourth-placed Chelsea in the Premier League.
Winning the Europa League could therefore provide the winner of this tie with a quicker, if not necessarily easier, route to the Champions League next season.