It doesn’t matter how well they do in the league – if Barcelona don’t find a way to get past AC Milan and into the Champions League quarterfinals, it’ll mark this season as somewhat of a disappointment for the team that looked determined to run all over Europe, somewhere along the way losing all that early momentum.
Good news? In their latest league match, Barcelona didn’t concede a single goal. It’s more than likely Milan won’t be too offensive in their approach in the second leg, with their defensive ability and tactics mostly on their minds, and yet, counter attacks from the Rossoneri are probably a bit more dangerous than those Deportivo offered.
When it comes to the big matches this season, Barcelona haven’t done so well – only one win in six tries against Real Madrid, drawing twice and losing three times. Their Champions League campaign wasn’t as exquisite as some imagine, having a lot of trouble handling teams that come with an ultra defensive approach to the Old Trafford. Yes, Lionel Messi has scored in 17 consecutive league matches, but he was a non-factor at the San Siro, and without making some sort of change in his individual positioning and style of play in this match, it’s going to be another frustrating struggle for Barcelona.
Milan are on fire in the Serie A, but that also has to do with Mario Balotelli. They’ve taken over the second place which looked imaginary a couple of months ago, and although it’s probably too late to make a challenge that will derail Juve of their tracks, it’s more than enough to go in as slight favorites to the second leg thanks to a perfect defensive performance at home, which left no cracks in the wall.
Gianpaolo Pazzini won’t be playing which might hurt Milan’s ability to hold up play and spend precious seconds and minutes through slow build ups, and rely on a more quick exchange and push forward with Boateng, El Shaarawy and possibly Niang, but their strength is in the team defending, and their forwards work rate, making life impossible for the Barcelona full backs, making them think twice about joining the attack.
Prediction – Unless Barcelona score early or suddenly become a team that likes to shoot from long range, it’s going to be a struggle through and through. If Milan don’t fall off their feet (defending for 90 minutes is an exhausting task) and Philippe Mexes doesn’t lose his head, Barcelona will still win, but not by enough to go through.