When Barcelona play in an alarmingly slow pace, it’s quite clear that the team isn’t so concerned about winning. A Clasico coming up, a tough Italian opponent and Lionel Messi himself only now coming back from injury, there were more pressing issues that going all-out for the victory.
Drawing 1-1 at the San Siro against AC Milan isn’t a bad result, especially when you’re forced to once again cover up for a big defensive mishap courtesy of both Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano. Lionel Messi didn’t struggle much scoring the equalizer, getting the ball in the box on the right before making a cut to the middle, showing perfect balance as he wasn’t troubled by a slight nude and providing the usual clinical finish.
But that was it from Barcelona, who faced what’s called a bunker by some, with Milan losing interest in even getting past the halfway line as the match drew nearer to a close. The moment Kaka left the pitch there was no one really left to spark any kind of creativity, but Barcelona simply gave up on trying to solve a defense of all 10 players, and made an effort to keep things as quiet as possible.
There were some interesting attempts from Barcelona to clear some space on the wings bu using both Neymar and Alexis Sanchez in the box during long minutes. Lionel Messi did his best work when playing on the right wing, but at some point he moved into walking mode, and that was about it for Barcelona’s chances of winning the match. Cesc Fabregas for Alexis Sanchez; Pedro for Neymar. Nothing really came out of those substitutions, as Milan wouldn’t budge in order to get a win, and Barcelona didn’t risk it all because they didn’t have to.
In a world that expects Barcelona to win convincingly every match, this is a disappointment. In reality, it’s a very good result. Barcelona didn’t have anyone injured ahead of their super important Clasico match, especially now that the gap between them and Real Madrid is only three points, and they kept a comfortable lead on top of their group in the Champions League as well. Lionel Messi played 90 minutes without being physically battered or pulling his hamstring, while Neymar got his first taste of an Italian defense.
Were things so different in the past? Probably not so much. Barcelona have been playing AC Milan for three years straight now, and they haven’t been able to sweep those matches, not once. Milan might be far from a intimidating team as they once was during the mid 00’s, reaching three Champions League finals in five seasons, but it’s still quite a difficult task to beat them when they put their minds to boarding up on defense. It becomes a lot harder to do that when playing at the very wide and imposing Camp Nou, and Barcelona can live with 4 points and even 2 from two matches against the biggest threat to a first place finish in the group.