AC Milan will be looking to cause the upset of the season when they take on Catalan giants FC Barcelona in second leg action of the last 16 of Champions League Tuesday evening.
The Rossoneri travel to the Nou Camp with a 2-0 aggregate lead earned from the first leg at the San Siro. Barcelona faces the possibility of failing to progress past the second round for the first time in a staggering six years. Since the Blaugrana’s elimination at the hands of Liverpool in the second round of the 2006/2007 season, they have been a constant terror in later rounds of Champions League competition. But this season standing in their path and progression to yet another quarterfinal appearance is a resurgent AC Milan.
Massimiliano Allegri’s men will be full of confidence having gone undefeated in ten matches. After the Rossoneri’s early season troubles their turnaround has been so remarkable that they are now only two points off second place in Serie A. Milan’s 2-0 victory over Genoa on the weekend however came at a cost. Giampaolo Pazzini suffered a micro-fracture to his right fibula and Phillipe Mexes was substituted at half time due to injury. Mexes and Kevin-Prince Boateng, who missed the tie at the weekend, will be assessed prior to the match and could play a part.
Barcelona after a recent run of poor results over, overcame Deportivo La Coruna 2-0 in La Liga on Saturday. In so doing they kept their first clean sheet in fourteen matches in all competitions. This went a long way to dispelling rumours of an impending crisis at the Nou Camp. Barcelona welcome back Xavi Hernandez from injury and have their full army of attacking players to choose from. Much has been said about Lionel Messi’s struggles against Italian opposition but the Catalans will once again look to their Argentine maestro.
Italian sides of the past would almost certainly expose Barcelona to Catenaccio defending, carrying a two goal lead in a second leg. However the current youthful Milan squad possess plenty of pace and ability to undo the struggling Barcelona defence. Allegri’s men have already proved they can unlock the Blaungrana’s defence. An away goal at the Camp Nou will make progression for Barcelona all the more difficult.
The game has all the ingredients of a true classic. A contrast of styles, a battle of tactics and the ability to score goals will have the entire football world intrigued at the outcome. Come Wednesday morning will we be discussing the end of an era, or the beginning of a new one?
The Last Five Head-to-Head at Camp Nou
April 03, 2012 Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan
September 13, 2011 Barcelona 2-2 AC Milan
April 26, 2006 Barcelona 0-0 AC Milan
November 01, 2004 Barcelona 2-1 AC Milan
September 25,2000 Barcelona 0-2 AC Milan
based on these previous outcomes under the lights in Barcelona, visitors Milan should advance to the quarterfinals. The alternative outcome would be a Barcelona long overdue for a winning three goal margin while maintaining a clean sheet.
We know they have the talent to score but will Messi lift the Italian eye placed upon him? Or has the mystique surrounding Barca invincibility been punctured? The key will be how well the hosts can make use of that lauded possession football they are known for against a dogged defense and counter-attack of Milan.
For more on the Barcelona mission see – “The Way Forward: Barcelona – AC Milan”