Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Frank Tigani On April - 3 - 2012

Barcelona v AC Milan: A Fighting Chance

Ahead of tomorrow night’s mouth-watering Champions League semi-final between Barcelona and Milan, former Rossoneri striker Marco Simone has claimed that, “Milan have 50 per cent chance to win the second leg against Barcelona in my opinion.”

Simone would be right were the game to be decided by the flip of a coin. But, this is not how the winner will emerge. Rather, what the teams produce on the pitch is what will determine just who progresses to the semi-finals. And on paper and past form there is one clear favourite, Barcelona.

Enough has been said of the current Spanish champions. In short, they are the best team of a generation, the best since Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan twenty years ago and they will go down in history as one of the best ever. Maybe even the best, but, this is a debate for another day.

Just why defeating the Catalans at home will be incredibly difficult is easy to explain. In their last 106 La Liga home matches, Pep Guardiola’s men have lost just one. Surprisingly, this was to Hercules in their first home fixture of last season.

In the Champions League, their record has been much the same. The last time Barca were defeated on home territory was in 2009 when, even more surprisingly, they went down 2-0 to Russia’s Rubin Kazan.

While Barcelona have been virtually unbeatable at home both domestically and in Europe, Milan’s away form, particularly in this season’s Champions League, has left much to be desired. In four matches Max Allegri’s men have managed just three draws and one defeat. Given that two of these fixtures were against the likes of BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen, well, you get the point.

Nevertheless, as the saying goes, history can sometimes count for little. But, there is a little piece of history that Milan can take with them to help with their confidence in achieving the unlikely and it is summed up in the words of Milan supremo Adriano Galliani who said this week, “Barca struggled against us in the last three matches.” This is entirely true.

In the teams’ first encounter in the group stages Barcelona were completely dominant. Yet, they failed to produce the goals to kill off the tie, in no small part due to the superb display of Alessandro Nesta, and they paid the price for it when Thiago Silva leapt higher than Sergio Busquets to head home the equaliser in the dying seconds.

When the two teams then later met at the San Siro, the Italians put on a brave display as they tried to beat Barcelona at their own game – by setting out to attack from the start. Allegri’s side went down gallantly with the final score 3-2 in the visitors’ favour.

In last week’s first leg Milan reverted back to a more defensive approach, even if the attacking trident of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho and Kevin Prince Boateng all started. This was to be expected too. There is always much more to lose in knockout fixtures. In addition, could Milan keep Barcelona scoreless in the first tie this would put the pressure on the reigning European champions come the return leg. And, this is exactly what has transpired.

The pressure is all on Guardiola’s side. Nothing less than a win will be good enough for them. However, Milan will enter the tie in the belief that claiming a draw is not beyond their reach. After all, they have done so twice already this season. To put this achievement in perspective, Real Madrid have only managed to draw once in their last three clashes against their old foe. Furthermore, they have not been able to keep Barcelona scoreless once all season.

Milan do have a fighting chance tomorrow night. But, if you were to put a number on it, it would not be 50 per cent. One suspects that if Barca can be kept at bay until half time, then they will really start to feel the pressure and Milan’s odds may increase as the story unfolds.

Allegri has said this week that he is not thinking “too much about the final score, it could finish 0-0 and go to penalties although I doubt that will happen.”

If he does not think that a 0-0 is likely – and it’s not – then a scoring draw is what he is most likely hoping for – a coach can only pray for a win when playing at Camp Nou including Jose Mourinho. He therefore expects Barcelona to score at home and who would not given that the last time they failed to score at home – or in any Champions League match – was against Rubin Kazan in 2009.

Milan’s hopes were boosted this week after Pato returned to the team following his injury spell. He will not start, but, with his tendency to score against Spain’s big two may see him get some playing time. But, the real hope – the one hope – for the Italians will be former Barcelona ace, Ibrahimovic. Chances will come few and far between for the visitors but when they do if the big Swede is clinical then the 2007 European champions may just get the goals needed to cause the shock of the round, or year, by ousting the Catalans  from the competition.

In addition to needing Ibrahimovic to be at his best the Milan rear-guard will need to repeat their heroics of seven days ago. It was a rare exhibition in the art of defending, a glimpse back at how Italian teams, through guile and style used to stop the best of the best. The onerous task at hand is that they will have to do this again if they are to have any chance.

Comments are closed.

Featured Skills Video

    Write for Serie A Weekly!

    contribute Send us a timely, compelling post and we'll consider it for publishing on the site with mention of your name and social-media link.

    Click here to contact us.


Serie A Weekly recognises all copyrights contained. Where possible we acknowledge the copyright holder. If you own copyright to an image and object to its presence, contact the blog immediately using the "contact us" link at the top of this page. This blog is not responsible for the content of third party sites.