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Matthew Coccoluto On March - 27 - 2012

Italy’s Last Hope: Milan Can Overcome

Then there was one. After the first set of games in the round of 16 it looked like Italy would have at least two, if not three teams in the quarterfinals. After Inter’s dismal showing against Marseille, and Chelsea’s comeback against Napoli, Milan remain the only Italian team in all of Europe. It didn’t get any easier for the peninsula as Milan were handed a big task. To make it to the semi-finals they first have to face Barcelona for the third and fourth time this year.

Milan and Barcelona were pitted against each other earlier this year in the Champions League group stage. Although Barcelona finished ahead of Milan in the group, it has to be said that Milan did very well against Barca and hung in there earning a draw and a narrow defeat.After destroying Arsenal in the first leg of the round of 16, they were almost embarrassed in London and narrowly held on to win 4-3 on aggregate.

There are no delusions about this upcoming fixture. Barcelona are the best in the world, and possibly the best ever, but they are not invincible and with the right amount of luck, Milan could pull off something legendary. If the task wasn’t tall enough, Milan have been dealt a massive blow, as Thiago Silva is ruled out of both legs. One cannot begin to describe how much of an impact Silva has on the team. He is one of the best defenders in the world.

Milan have also seen a number of other players plagued with injury this year, Pato and Boatang have both gone through injury spells. Replacing Silva is almost impossible and it will fall to veteran Alessandro Nesta (who did well againt Messi in Barcelona) to turn back time, and be a leader for the Milan defense. Bonera and Antonini do not typically play with the quality needed to keep the Barcelona attack at bay, so it will be on them to step up and play at a level previously unseen by the defenders. This hurdle is massive, and the injuries only add to the difficulty of this game. The problems at Milan may make this task just too big to accomplish.

All hope is not lost, however. Barcelona are the best team in the world, but they are not invincible. Now, more than ever, will Milan need Ibra. He has always been great but this season has seen the superstar play with a little more consistency than previous. He’s coming off a stellar performance against a Roma team that attempts to mimic Barcelona, and although they are nowhere near the same level, his confidence will be as high as ever. He has the potential to be a game changer. The second striker will also need to step up. If Robinho can match his form from the first leg against Arsenal or El Shaaraway can play an entire game with the spark he shows in small bursts, Milan have a chance. The tall order for Milan will be defending. Because of Silva’s absence, the midfield will need to offer support. The midfield will have to control the play and prevent, or marginally disrupt, the Barca attack from taking over the game. They know what they match up against. Everyone knows how good Messi, Xavi, Iniesta and company are, but even the greatest stumble at times.

Milan are the last chance for Italy. As the only team from the country left in a European competition, it is on them to carry the coefficient. Fans of all teams will be supporting Milan. The hopes and dreams of an entire nation rest on their shoulders. To advance, they will need to rally together and do something spectacular, however stranger things have happened and do not count Milan out. Milan may be underdogs in this match but they are still one of Europe’s elite teams.

Matthew Coccoluto

Originally from Boston now in LA. I work in production but football is my passion. I bleed black and white. Proud member of the Juventus Fan Club of Southern California. Forza Juve, Sempre Sara.

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