Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
Game to Watch: Barcelona on the brink against Milan
by Samuel Charles, March 11th, 2013 12:12AM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

[UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE] AC Milan's astonishing performance at the San Siro in Italy finds Barcelona with its back against the wall in Spain for Tuesday's second leg at the Camp Nou where the world's best team must draw a line in the sand, or get swept away.

TV: AC Milan–Barcelona (Tuesday 2:45 pm ET, Fox Soccer)

THE HARD TRUTH: Milan’s 2-0 win in Italy has Barcelona in dire straights, needing a three-goal margin to progress. AC Milan hasn’t lost by any scoreline all season that would result in its elimination. Barca posted several results that would see it progress, although Saturday’s 2-0 win over Deportivo was its first shutout in 14 games.

THE SANDS OF TIME: The first leg was Xavi’s only full 90 since January, but Barca’s midfield conductor has stated he’ll take a shot in his torn hamstring if necessary.

"We are playing for our season on Tuesday, and I want to be there," Xavi told El Mundo Deportivo. "I will do everything possible to get there, if not at 100% then at 90% or 95%."

This year’s final is May 25th at Wembley. Xavi will be 33 years old, Andres Iniesta 29, Dani Alves 30, David Villa 31, and Carles Puyol 35.

Victor Valdes, 31, has announced he’s leaving after next season, Sergio Busquets, 24, is the only player under 25 whose future appears certain in Barcelona, while homegrown Cesc Fabregas, 25, has heard whistles at the Camp Nou recently -- mostly because he’s not Xavi.

TIME TO SHINE: One of several regulars rested Saturday, Lionel Messi still bagged his 40th La Liga goal and another world record by scoring in a 17th straight league appearance, all in under 30 minutes of work. And yet, Messi’s recent performances have become the subject of considerable scrutiny.

Nearly invisible in Milan, Leo had two forgettable games against Real Madrid in a pair of losses, one included a goal, and both included being outplayed by Cristiano Ronaldo.

The world’s best must remind his teammates, and Milan’s defenders, how he came to own that title.

SUBMIT YOUR FORMS: Since the group phase of the UCL Milan played 16 matches, won 11, tied three, and lost twice. Barcelona played 20, winning 14, with three draws and three losses – all coming in its last five games.

After sitting as low as 13th in November Milan’s 2-0 win at Genoa on Friday made 10 straight unbeaten and third in Serie A. Barcelona is 13 points clear in La Liga.

TACTICAL LIFT: Stephan El Shaarawy, 20, and Riccardo Montolivo were two big reasons Milan did more than defend and counter three weeks ago, showing the Blaugrana respect, then outplaying them. But its current goal advantage screams for the Barca blueprint with 10 behind the ball and all hands on deck, especially considering Barcelona simply hasn’t shown an Option B.

Milan’s second leading scorer Giampaolo Pazzini is out, starters Kevin-Prince Boateng and Philippe Mexes are battling injuries, but its Mexes’ leadership in defense that will prove vital if Max Allegri chooses to play compact with his young Rossoneri squad in unnatural positions.

Starting Villa and featuring him centrally is about as exotic as Barcelona gets regarding personnel, with Gerard Pique, Busquets, and Alex Song off the bench, its only alternatives over 5-foot-10, and both teams know it.

THE SKINNY: Barca’s players have made it clear they’ll search for an early goal, the longer that takes the more entrenched Milan will become on defense, and a counter putting things out of reach becomes more probable, with the likely villains being El Shaarawy or 18-year-old M’Baye Niang, who was phenomenal as a sub in Italy.

Messi, Iniesta and Xavi know this is a one game season, while Milan arrives brimming with confidence and unlikely to lose cheaply. If Barca wants this game it's going to have to show some mental and physical toughness.

There are few things in sport more compelling than finding out how greatness reacts when backed into a corner. Barcelona will show us once more what it's capable of, or it will watch AC Milan walk into the quarterfinals on Barca's home field.



2 comments
  1. Andres Yturralde
    commented on: March 11, 2013 at 11:32 a.m.
    Option B = Option Barcelona. For the good of the game, I do hope Barça confront their own demons and come out swinging the best they know how. "There are few things in sport more compelling than finding out how greatness reacts when backed into a corner." Absolutely, Sir Charles! The stage is set. I can't wait!
  1. feliks fuksman
    commented on: March 12, 2013 at 9:15 a.m.
    I enjoyed watching the way Barca has played and succeeded in the past. Nevertheless, when they don't shoot, moreover, over try to walk in with the ball through the middle and don't play wide enough to open up the opponents' defense they could be boring and unsuccessful!

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
What They're Saying: Klaus Allofs    
"We had to take it seriously. Finally we decided to start negotiations with City." -- VfL ...
Video Pick: A James-to-Isco golazo in Real Madrid practice    
Real Madrid's Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez in how he delivers the ball and how flying Isco ...
Women: No. 1 Florida State faces Florida in Gainesville    
Defending champion Florida State puts its No. 1 ranking on the line this week when it ...
What They're Saying: Kaka    
"It has been a tough period for us, but I love this kind of crisis because ...
Rapinoe leads Reign FC to second NWSL Shield    
Seattle Reign FC clinched its second straight NWSL regular-season championship when it defeated the last-place Boston ...
Vancouver Whitecaps end curse with first Canadian title    
Runners-ups five out of the last six seasons, the Vancouver Whitecaps seemed to be cursed in ...
What They're Saying: Wayne Rooney    
"I wasn't worried -- if it was going on for three, four or five games more, ...
Wednesday night: Sounders first MLS team to fall in CCL    
A week after the Seattle Sounders rallied from 1-0 in the 90th minute to beat Olimpia, ...
Retiring Dunivant fine about not making headlines    
Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant, one of just four players to win five or more league titles, ...
Wednesday night: Last-place MLS teams sweep    
Chicago and Colorado, last in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, both won on Wednesday night ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives