Match Preview: FC Barcelona vs AC Milan (2012/13 Champions League Last 16 2nd Leg)

ac milan 2-0 barcelona muntari alvesOne massive night of Champions League football awaits Camp Nou as Barça try to overcome AC Milan’s 2-0 advantage taken from the first leg at the San Siro three weeks ago. Xavi Hernandez looks set to return to Barça’s midfield though there has been much debate about which starting XI should be used to face a Milan team that is unbeaten in Serie A in 2013.

Milan arrive without Pazzini who left Puyol with a splitting headache after the first leg and reports suggest that Max Allegri will play a 4-5-1 system with just Stephan El-Shaawary as a lone forward. Antonio Nocerino could return to bolster the midfield while Kevin-Prince Boateng could be asked to play a deeper role. Nocerino, Boateng and Ambrosini were all rested for Milan’s 0-2 win at Genoa on Friday when the Rossoneri demonstrated their strength in defence, holding out with ten men for the last twenty five minutes after Kevin Constant was sent off.

barcelona 3-1 milan iniesta goalLast season the two sides met at the quarter-final stage and after a 0-0 draw in the first leg in Italy, Barça went through with a 3-1 win at Camp Nou. For that game Pep Guardiola began with a 3-4-3 formation and I have to admit that before Barça’s 2-0 win over Deportivo on Saturday I had been seduced by the idea of starting against Milan again with a defence of three. We may not have used the 3-4-3 formation much this season but last season we used it a lot and our players should be able to adapt. The 3-4-3 formation is especially suited to Cesc Fabregas and I saw us playing with two wide forwards, Messi and Cesc combining through the middle, with Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets making up the midfield.

However, Fabregas’s recent run of form has made me doubt. The fact that he played with an injury against Milan and Madrid may be some excuse for his below-par performances, but against Depor he was again off the pace, and following his press conference last Thursday when he spoke of the team’s situation and felt the need to defend himself, I get the impression that he is feeling the pressure. For this reason I have gone back to the idea of a 4-3-3 with a midfield three of Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta. The question then is: who should play up front with Leo Messi?

Alexis has suffered recently from a drop in confidence but his performance against Depor suggests he is at last recovering his form. I have never doubted his quality as a player and always felt his problems were in his head. He will be boosted by his goal on Saturday and I believe he should start against Milan.

The other forward position will then be a choice between Tello, David Villa and Pedro. Villa is the best finisher of the three but he is clearly not in his best moment. Tello was impressive in the first half against Depor and he is certainly the most direct at taking on his man. My only problem with Tello is his ability to last 90 minutes and on Saturday he was not so effective in the second half. I have not been too impressed with Pedro recently but he was rested on Saturday with the intention of having him at his best. I think he’ll get the other forward’s slot with Villa and Tello being used as subs for the last half hour depending on how the game is going.

It’s never going to be easy to break down a well organised Italian defence, however fancy our quick one-twos may be. Perhaps the best way to surprise them is to be first to any rebounds or half-clearances and for this we will need a constant intense pressing. Alexis and Pedro are probably the most insistent of our forwards in chasing down defenders, and I think Messi should be asked to increase his work in this aspect for this game. When we have the ball we need to keep it moving as quickly as possible, play less horizontally and try to get more balls into the danger zone.

The players will need to avoid getting too desperate as we have seen in recent years against Inter and Chelsea that sometimes the enormity of the occasion can get the better of them. As fans, whoever plays, we must have faith. They may not win everything but this group of players has achieved so much and proved itself on countless occasions. Here’s to another fantastic night to be remembered for years to come.

Possible starting XIs:

Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Pedro.

Milan: Abbiati; Abate, Zapata, Mexes, Constant; Nocerino, Montolivo, Boateng, Ambrosini, Muntari; El Shaarawy.

Prediction: Barça 3 Milan 0 (after extra time)

Date: Tuesday 12 March 2013. Kick off 8.45 pm local time.

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15 Responses to Match Preview: FC Barcelona vs AC Milan (2012/13 Champions League Last 16 2nd Leg)

  1. Should be an interesting match

  2. bosun says:

    i believe strongly that Barcelona will win the day and also qualify for the next round but my fear is, the coach. he needs to start Tello and sub him during second half for Pedro. Messi should also be allowed to operate from the left or right but not as a center forward. that will give way for quick thru pass and also counter- attacks. also we should be looking towards motoya to replays alves cos he is more of defensive conscious. and lastly we don’t need villa cos he is out of form as at present. go go barca

  3. barcacentalomer says:

    Nic, I’m pretty much in agreement with your starting XI for the game, however I think Pedro and Alexis both look far comfortable on the right which means one of them will probably have to make do on the left flank and try to link up with Alba. I think our left wing was extremely below par in the first leg and I just hope this stop gap arrangement will pay dividends against a very well organised Milan side.

    Its too late to advocate a Plan B at this time but considering we have the odds stacked against us anyway, a 3-5-2 gamble is perhaps whats needed to break down a resolute Milan team who are expecting us to come out with a 4-3-3 and know the forward line is primarily Messi who can be neutralized. If we can alternate our full backs when going forward we should be able to hold a Milan side who will try their best to hit us on the counter or from a set piece. With Xavi,Busquets and Iniesta taking on the Milan midfield, one of our wingbacks should be employed to torment their fullbacks and supply the Messi-Alexis duo because frankly Messi was completely isolated upfront in the first leg. Alba and Alves are natural wingbacks instead of conventional fullbacks so why not unleash them on a Milan side and let Puyol,Pique and Mascherano deal with the threat of a quick counter attack. I know its unlikely that this formation will be employed but I have my doubts about Plan A working in the absence of a natural LW/LF.

    Here’s hoping I’m wrong and our team pulls of a magnificent win and goes through to the next stage….:)

  4. Xavi says:

    Omer’s plan B sounds pretty much what I was thinking. The defence of three but play Alves and Alba further forward.
    Something like this—————

    —————————————–Valdes————————————————-
    ————-Puyol———————Pique————————Mascherano———–
    —————————————-Busquets————————————————
    ——————-Xavi—————————————Iniesta—————————-
    —Alves——————————-Messi——————————————Alba—-
    ————————————–Alexis———————————————————

    • barcacentralnic says:

      This could also be an interesting option. It’s probably more defensive than the 4-3-3 but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Scoring three goals at home doesn’t seem so unusual for Barça, whereas keeping a clean sheet may prove more difficult..

  5. Pingback: Match Preview: FC Barcelona vs AC Milan (2012/13 Champions League Last 16 2nd Leg) | jorgejsantiago

  6. jjsantee says:

    Reblogged this on jorgejsantiago and commented:
    All eyes at Camp Nou

  7. Noubody says:

    I guess I disagree with your starters.

    Yes, Alexis finally scored a goal. Good for him. Meaningless game, but whatever. Tuesday’s game however is huge. Please tell me the last big game Alexis scored a goal in a huge game? Villa in contrast is nothing if not clutch in huge games. It seems absurd to me to go with Alexis, but of course we will. I don’t why. It’s the Bojan syndrome. Some players we just keep riding in spite of so much evidence they aren’t good enough for Barca. (As Ross Perot used to say, “That dog don’t hunt!”) Yes, Alexis has great potential, and he opens space for other players. But we can’t count on Messi to score all the goals. Somebody else has got to finish. You really think Alexis is going to score in this big of game? I don’t.

    The Alba and Alves wing duo had caused us so much grief. It turns out we need defenders or the other team scores goals. One goal and we are all but doomed. Should one of them sit? Alves had been the better of late, right? We can bring in Alba later, if needed.

    Pedro? Mr. Invisible does not deserve the start. Alves is better without Pedro him in the way.

    Keeping a clean sheet is going to be a lot more difficult for us than scoring two goals.
    I bet Iniesta comes through with the clutch goal once again.

  8. bc9jaCule says:

    I’m completely on the same wavelength with u with respect to your proposed lineup. I must, however, clarify that Pedro MUST play on the left, Alexis in the middle and Messi on the right. Reason being that; Alves just doesn’t seem to click with Pedro in the big games while with Messi, the chemistry remains a mystery to all opposing teams. Moreover, Alexis and Pedro will help well with their directness and dribbles when on the ball while we could do with their pressing off the ball. Again, Alexis is quite familiar with the setup of Italian defences and having him play on the right will certainly draw fouls resulting into freekicks for Messi in his choice position. Also, Messi can always switch roles with any of the forwards in order to mix the dynamism and shake things up a bit as the game unfolds.

    The classic midfield of Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta can always provide the ball retention, circulation and advancement options, while Iniesta or Xavi can cleverly choose their moments to make their forward forays and help with the goal-scoring duties.

    In defence, we need to be sophisticatedly tactical. Meaning, when Alba overlaps, Alves MUST stay back and vice versa so as to always have 3 defenders on standby. However, in the rare cases when they both overlap (I’m sure we can’t entirely not have such instances), Busquets must drop back to complement the numbers in defence. In all situations though, we must have a minimum of 2 defenders – mainly Pique and Puyol (or Busquets when we’re crossing corners) – always in front of our 18-yard box manning the barricade.

    Should be an interesting game and I’m rooting for a 4-0 win for Barca in regulation time with Messi getting a hat-trick and Xavi scoring the other. Good luck cules.

    Visca Barca!!!!!
    Forca Barca!!!!!

  9. barcacentralnic says:

    I recognise Pedro prefers to play on the right but agree Alves has looked good when he hasn’t had Pedro in front of him. I think Alexis should start on the right as he did against Depor but have him coming inside to leave the right flank open for Alves to get forward. Pedro has played plenty of times before on the left and then there is always the option of Alexis and Pedro switching positions. With Pedro, Alexis and Messi there are plenty of options for position switches during the game.

  10. barcacentralnic says:

    Mundo Deportivo are now saying that Puyol won’t start. Their predicted team in a 3-4-3 is: Valdés; Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi; Alves, Villa, Alexis.
    Could also be played as a 4-3-3 with Alexis on the right wing and Villa on the left.

  11. barcacentralnic says:

    It’s Villa and Pedro, no Alexis. starting XI confirmed: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa

  12. Dale Dale Barça!
    Vamos Del Barça!!
    Visca Del Barça!!!
    4-0..!!!

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