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Thread: UCL (2012-13) RD16 - 2nd Leg: Barcelona vs. Milan

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    Registered User Haroon's Avatar
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    Champions League Cup UCL (2012-13) RD16 - 2nd Leg: Barcelona vs. Milan

    UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
    2012-13

    Round of 16

    Estadio Camp Nou
    Barcelona - Espana


    First Leg: 2-0 to Milan in Italia



    FC Barcelona vs. AC Milan


    Preview

    The UCL does this to me. The build-up to a big game against a big opponent in a big stadium where everything is at stake. I will be the first to stand up and say that I wouldn't have given a chance to this team when we drew Barcelona after the draw. I don't think many Milan fans would have given this team a chance.

    The main aim would have been "damage control", "avoid humiliation", "maintain some respect" so on and so forth.

    As the first leg drew closer, some things started to happen on the left and right of Milan. Some UCL results started to go in our favor and I informed Drew and Dario that Milan would win 2-1 tonight and keep an eye on Muntari. Sometimes it just unfolds in front of me very clearly and admittedly Milan playing the last round of games made it easier to predict that game.

    Here we are again and I am finding it harder to predict because this is not the last round of games. We will have 2 more games on Wednesday night and the odd decision by the ref in the Utd.-Real game has released the cat amongst the pigeons as the prediction becomes harder and harder to get right.

    I have been reading a lot of papers, articles and any content I can get hold of to try to see what the world view is. How the world is looking at this game. How pro-Italian journalists are looking at it. How pro-Spanish journalists are looking at it.

    It is fair to say that apart from the Italian section most are "hoping" for the miraculous comeback that makes the world stand up again and applaud Barcelona's greatest team ever. Fair play. A part of that is because it will make the tie more fancy as it will have lots of goals in it to happen. Barcelona have earned their status to get the plaudits. They have won a lot and won with style. Guardiola slowly made them more direct and less sideways.

    Tito Vilanova's start to their campaign looked like Barcelona hit a total new gear when La Liga started. It was phenomenal. But it never gave the same vibe in the UCL .... at least to me personally. It lacked that spark and defeat to Celtic showed a little crack.

    Anyway ... we are here. This is now. And tomorrow night Barcelona faces their European nemesis.


    Milan: The European Nemesis

    Barcelona has enjoyed their greatest run in La Liga and Europe combined since they defeated Milan in the 2006 SF first leg in Milano. That was the first time Rijkaard became the first man IMHO to double team Pirlo and cut his supply line. He might have taken a hint of what Liverpool did in that 20 min spell against Milan when all hell broke loose in Istanbul but he took it further. He did that effectively for 90 mins. Pirlo was always struggling to find space and then send the ball that started the dangerous play. Marquez was excellent that night. Milan tried and tried but it was not happening and when this happens, a team can lose concentration for a moment and that is what happened as Giuly broke through and scored.

    It left Milan in tatters as we lost. Losing is a part of the game but losing during an era (A successful one is usually 6-8 years but mostly 7 and requires a team transition midway IMO) is something that is inexplicable to fans. It was a massive setback because Milan was very hard to beat in the San Siro during those years. The Holy Shrine of World Football was a fortress few would want to visit. It's the most difficult stadium to visit. It's noisy, it's loud, it shakes and the fans are crazy (like me).

    I know a thing or two about home theaters, surround sound and the technologies that encompass it as it is one of my hobbies. The San Siro is loud because of its architecture, steep height, closed roof and compactness. If Adidas develops a Fan-O-Meter like AdiFan that measures the decibels inside stadia on UCL nights, the San Siro in the good years will hit Number 1. Of that, I have no doubt.

    Getting back to the 2006 SF, that win gave a new found belief to Barcelona. Beating your ultimate European nemesis at home in a group stage game on MD4 with a last gasp Ronaldinho left foot shot a year before simply does not compare to beating the that same ultimate European nemesis in their own backyard as underdogs in a semi-final.

    It gave them the belief they had taken a huge stride forward. It gave them the relief that they could beat Milan. Let's not forget that prior to Ronaldinho's strike Barcelona had not beaten Milan for decades ... almost 40 years if my memory serves me correctly.

    The same Barcelona and its natives saw Milan absolutely trounce the all-dominant Real Madrid in the SF of 1989 which was a 5-0 drubbing. The greatest trouncing that Real has faced to this day. And that was a good Real side led by Manuel Sanchis. That same Barcelona and its natives gave Milan a red carpet reception in their city as 90,000 Milan fans followed the team into Catalunya to trounce Steaua.

    These are images and memories that are etched into your memory forever. For that reason, Barcelona and Milan go back decades in their. The older Barcelona fans for that matter have a totally different perspective of what Milan is compared to the Belieber generation that has seen Barcelona almost every side you can name except Milan which as probably been the weakest Milan in Silvio Berlusconi's era. In all this time Barcelona's best win against Milan was the 3-1 last year (a two goal win over Milan) and that too required penalties and some officiating that I would not like to delve into.

    It's because Milan has cast a shadow over Barcelona that will remain on them forever like it or not. Not defeating a team for decades, seeing your great and dominant rivals Real being thrashed, destroying a top opponent in that 89 final in your own ground leaves behind memories. The cherry on this cake in Athens 1994 when Cruyff's team got pummeled and that in effect was the end of an era at Barcelona's glorious period. It was a premature end because that defeat left mental scars on Barcelona that was already in the shadow of Milan.

    That is why the win in 2006 in the San Siro was the pivotal catalyst for Barcelona's belief that they had taken a step up. Everybody remembers that despite that top win, Barcelona was still struggling to control their nerves in the second leg and could have lost that game if not for that call that disallowed Sheva's legitimate goal. Those nerves still showed in the final against a 10 man Arsenal but that win in the San Siro had given enough fuel for Barcelona to finally cross that line.

    Then we move ahead a year and Milan miraculously wins the 2007 final in Athens again. Once again, I can't help but think that this would have re-ignited some Barcelona flashbacks and questioned them to think that how in the name of the Lord did this weakest of weak Milan sides in the twilight manage to win the UCL by playing 3 top games (Bayern away and Utd. both legs).

    Fast forward to three weeks and the weakest Milan side in Berlusconi's era that was flirting with relegation positions for weeks turned things around in January and managed to do the unthinkable. Beat Barcelona by two goals and nullify their potency through teamwork, handwork, discipline and fearlessness of the youth going at them. It's just thinkable. But it happened. And who else? Someway, somehow, it was Milan again. The European Nemesis of Barcelona.

    That is why Milan is and will remain Barcelona's European nemesis. They will always have that inkling in the back of their mind whenever facing Milan. The mental scars will never go away.

    For that same reason Real will have that feeling when facing Juve or Liverpool who have always managed to do well against them. For that same reason Milan will always have that inkling when facing Liverpool because of Istanbul. For that same reason Bayern will always have that feeling when facing Utd. as the clock runs down.

    It happens in football. Every team has a nemesis. Every team has a thorn. Our relationship with Barcelona goes a long way back. It is a unique relationship. I am finding it hard to find such a European rivalry that goes back decades and continues to this day.



    Barcelona

    They are not going to leave their skin on the pitch this time. Iniesta has put his hand on fire to confirm that Barcelona will beat Milan. Alves has sold everything but the kitchen sink to confirm that Barca will beat Milan. Messi has confirmed that Barcelona will beat Milan. Pique believes that Barcelona can make the comeback as the grass will be cut to the perfect height and it will watered just like they prefer it. Xavi has asked for that historic comeback that will etch this Barca side in the history books as that is the one thing it hasn't done according to him. I think the 5-1 against Chelsea was a great comeback after going down 3-1 so they did do it but not with Messi, Pique, Busquets which is what he might have been referring to.

    They are up for it. They should be.

    What Milan did to Barcelona would not have been possible 2 years ago even if we had a side that was much much better. I am not talking about beating them because Barcelona did lose games to Chelsea, Shakhtar, Utd. etc. I am talking about the manner in which we defeated them. No other side did it in such convincing style barring Inter in 2010. But then, the excuse was of the ash cloud and the 17 hr bumpy and tiring bus ride.

    This one had no ash cloud. There are a few other reasons. Puyol who I like and respect a lot is older and slower now. Xavi is a lot more older and slower now. These are natural things. Milan fans know what "old" really means. And then comes the hunger. All footballers are human. You are not as hungry for your fourth if you have already won three. It's natural. On the other hand, Milan is a lot younger and faster. With that comes fearlessness and more self-belief on banking on your abilities.

    Liverpool is the only side to win 4 European Cups ('77, '78, '81, '84) in a single era ... the modern era. No side has done it apart from them. Real won 5 on the trot but that was the start of the competition and way back in the mid-50s ('56-'60).

    Ajax ('71-'73), Bayern ('74-'76), Milan ('89, '90, '94) and Real ('98, '00, '02) are the other sides to have won three titles in an era. Barcelona have already won three (06, 09, 11). They have a little fuel in their tank even now to their credit but time is not on their side. It's very difficult to replace Puyol and Xavi. Very difficult.


    Barcelona will come out of the blocks all guns blazing. They have to. I don't think they have to but that's what the scoreline does to play with your mind. It's a two goal deficit with no away goals because 3-1 is still better than 2-0 ... by a lot!

    Formation will most probably be their trademark 433

    I think Roura will start with Villa because he needs the goals. He will also field Pedro and Messi will obviously form part of the trio. Tello and Sanchez will have to take the bench. The rest of the team picks itself. He will need Alba and Alves but ask Alba to not venture forward that much. He could use Abidal but Abidal and Puyol are two slow defenders against a fast Milan trio which is not ideal.


    Milan

    Milan has the team that seen all the ups and downs. We are used to winning. We are used to winning big. We are used to winning with style. We are used to doing the unthinkable when all hope is lost. We are used to making the easy look very difficult. We are used to losing when we absolutely should have won. We over-achieve and under-achieve.

    These last few years have been very difficult. Panic buys, bad buys, things going wrong. Lack of interest. It changed on one fine cold night in Milano three weeks ago with a snap of fingers. Just like that. It was the perfect game-plan. It was the perfect execution. It was the resurgence of Milan. All the football basics were done perfectly. A few can say we parked the bus like Chelsea did but this team can't park the bus. We played football. Barcelona controlled the ball for 66% of the time. Milan controlled the match for 100% of the time. Controlling a match without the ball is only possible if you control the zones, cut the supply line and prevent the opposition for time on the ball and runs off the ball.

    That is what Milan did successfully. Repeating that will be difficult because at home there is a large 80,000+ support backing your team. Away from home more than that number is whistling which forces one into mistakes unless the players are so mentally strong that that same whistling gives them the strength to do even better. It has happened many times on great European nights. Players become extra-terrestrials and shine when all hope is lost.



    Milan & big leads

    I keep hearing this argument of Milan surrendering big leads. I have yet to hear or read a single argument that truly analysed what happened and why.

    Deportivo La Coruna

    Deportivo had been playing Milan for a few years before they thrashed us 4-0. Zac's side beat them 0-1 in their own home with a Helveg strike. Then Milan destroyed them on MD2 in The Riazor as Inzaghi got a hat-trick. Milan could have won 0-7 on that night! Deportivo had two good chances and one was saved by Nesta's overhead kick clearance. Rui Costa and Inzaghi were on song that night. SuperDepor beat us 2-3 in a game that didn't matter as Milan had already topped the group with 4 straight wins. That is 4 games already played between these two sides in quick time.

    Then came game 5 and Deportivo dominated Milan in the San Siro. Valeron was on song that night. Milan didn't play that game well at all. Milan had a burst of 20 mins where there was super individual brilliance by our stars that turned that game on its head. Milan won 4-1 but the ground reality was that Milan played that match in a very poor manner and couldn't cope with Depor's midfield at all. It was their poor finishing that let them down otherwise Depor could have easily gotten another 2-3 that night. What happened that night was just a consequence of what had happened in the first leg. This time Depor finished well but Milan didn't. Depor played better than Milan in 3 out of the 4 halves in that tie. I have been saying this ever since, not just now.

    -> Depor had the crucial away goal. Milan didn't.


    Liverpool

    Liverpool happened because Milan went into the half with a 3-0 lead winning the final in their heads. It forced Rafa's hands to change things up during half-time. Sheva took a brilliant FK after half-time that was a critical point in the game. 4-0 could have been lights out. Liverpool had an 18 min burst of supernatural energy. Everything went their way. You just know it is not your night when a penalty hits the crossbar but they still score. It was fate and Milan got repaid in full two years later just like Bayern. We won the final in 2007 playing in a more conservative way but the performance was worse than in 2005 which was majestic but we still lost. It happens in football. However, I have never seen that happen. So scratch that. It was an EVENT.


    PSV

    PSV was the same thing like Depor. They actually dominated more than Depor but their finishing was even more poor. Milan pounced on two late opportunities to make it a 2-0 game. In Eindhoven they found their shooting boots and took a deserving 3-0 lead which could easily have been 6-0 if they had taken their chances in Milan. There was heavy criticism of Milan for reaching that final in that way. As if we stole the final. Milan nicked an away goal but did it fairly. PSV let it slip after they had it in their hands. Milan's experience did it.

    -> PSV didn't have the away goal. Milan did.


    Arsenal

    Arsenal were never going to overcome a 4-0 lead. Milan was just having fun with them to prolong Wenger's stay. As soon as Milan switched gears during that game Arsenal was all over the place. To be fair, Arsenal played one half better than Milan in that tie while Milan played 3 good halves.

    -> Arsenal didn't have the away goal. But neither did Milan.

    The Tie

    It's always a game of halves. Right now, as things stand Milan has played two very good halves. Barcelona will need to play two extraordinary halves to pull through this one. The thing is that they can.

    There is a slight difference here as well.

    1. Depor, PSV and Arsenal are not as big as Barcelona with all due respect to them. Milan suffers as the team gets smaller because that puts Milan in the favourites position and we haven't really liked that position for the past 10 years IMO. Milan will be more aware and attentive against Barcelona.

    2. This second thing is that Milan nullified Barcelona's attack and gameplay totally. It hasn't happened like that ever. Milan won the game but with control. It was a rude awakening for Barcelona. So, till now Milan has controlled the tie. It's still a game of two halves now. Therefore Milan needs one good half and Barcelona needs two extraordinary halves to make it IMO.

    3. If you start the month well you generally do well. Milan started this month with a win against Lazio. Barcelona didn't. Against Depor and PSV we didn't start our month well. I think we lost the first game of the month when the Depor tie came and drew the first game of the month when PSV came but won the first game of the month when Arsenal came.

    4. Barcelona kept a clean sheet which means that streak of not keeping clean sheets is broken which is a relief. They can get back to conceding now.

    5. Milan is enjoying a purple patch at the right time but all good things come to an end. I don't know when the purple patch ends but it can't last forever. Maybe sometime this month. Hopefully, after we eliminate Barcelona as we have some breathing space in the Serie A now.


    The Key Factors

    -> Roura thinks that Allegri's team will park the bus. The surprise is to replicate the performance in Milan with the quick one-touch passing and have a go at them. Barcelona doesn't like it when they are pressed hard and when they are not given space to make the passes or runs. Roura is not expecting a performance like the one in Milan because it is harder away from home. That is Allegri's card.

    -> Allegri thinks that they will come out all guns blazing. But what if Barcelona start in a normal fashion with a balanced approach to control the game without too much eagerness. Iniesta is back in midfield which means more skill is in midfield to accompany Xavi and more direct attackers up front for the goals. Therefore, an all guns blazing approach is not required. Even 0-0 for Barca at HT is not that bad.

    -> I don't know what the ref does but I hope for a clean game. Barcelona doesn't need to do the play-acting, hounding the ref and over-playing the situation but they resort to this sadly. It's a blemish on their greatness. I can't help but think that it will happen if push comes to shove unless Milan has killed off the tie leaving no hope at all. If it is on a knife-edge then the theatrics are a given.

    -> Milan will get 4-5 chances to score goals. Barcelona will probably get 8. It comes down to clinical finishing and mental strength. One mistake is enough to eliminate you from the UCL.

    -> Milan's last win in the Camp Nou was in 2000-01 when Coco and Bierhoff headed goals beat them. Thirteen years have passed. Last win in Spain was the 2-3 against Real three years ago when Seedorf caused a black-out.

    -> Barcelona last lost a game at the Camp Nou three years ago to Shakhtar Donetsk. I believe the last time they lost a KO game in the Camp Nou goes further back. Maybe Liverpool was the last team to beat them in 2007 but I am not sure.

    -> Camp Nou has late drama. It's synonymous with the stadium. It always has a late goal or fireworks in it. It's the signature of the stadium. No other stadium has it.

    -> Milan is young, fast and fearless because youth doesn't respect legacies. They go for it which is what Milan did. We went for it. The first touch, the quick interplay, the confidence in passing and movement was pleasantly surprising. Barcelona did not like that. Milan made Barcelona look slow. I haven't seen that in the last 7 years.


    Milan's 50th Anniversary

    This is Milan's 50th Anniversary of winning European Cups. Milan won the first European Champions Cup in 1963 in Wembley Stadium. 50 years on and by some fascinating coincidence that has absolutely nothing to do with Milan, the final is in Wembley against just two years after Wembley already hosted it. UEFA wanted to celebrate the FAs Centennary and therefore awarded the final to Wembley again after such a short interval.

    Coincidentally, it is aligned with Milan's 50th Anniversary. It remains to be seen if Milan can win on their 50th Anniversary in the same great Wembley venue where this adventure began on one fine night in the Summer of 1963 when Cesare Maldini lifted the trophy. Paolo Maldini lifted it in Manchester on the 40th anniversary. It remains to be seen if Milan can do it. It's a long distance.


    Prediction

    It's not the easiest one. Milan has to score. That is a given. Whenever Milan doesn't score (Marseille '93, Ajax '95, Barca '06, Depor '04), we have suffered. The slight difference is that we have a two goal cushion which is not that much.

    Milan can't go into this game thinking of getting one away goal. That is the entirely wrong premise to start this tie. The aim has to get the football basics down to a tee just like the first leg. I think Milan has a great chance to win in the Camp Nou and break that 13 year streak. The numbers are aligning properly. But there is a fine line between believing it can be done and over-confidence that it will be done resulting in a bad reverse.

    Both teams will concede goals IMO. I just can't see either team keeping a clean sheet because of the Camp Nou ambience which has goals. It doesn't matter who scores first. It doesn't matter what the HT scoreline is. What matters is what the FT scoreline is. Two halves are done. Two halves remain. It can go to XT which is another half in all. It's a game of halves.

    Barcelona might end up thrashing Milan if Milan are having a Murphy's Law night when everything is going wrong. However, Milan have importantly played two good halves already and it is difficult to overturn that IMO without looking at the scoreline.

    I think Milan will get a 2-2 draw or a 1-2 win depending on how good we are which should be visible in the first 20 mins.
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  2. #2
    Registered User Haroon's Avatar
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    It seems like our starting lineup is almost confirmed.

    ---------------- Abbiati ---------------------
    Abate --- Zapata --- Mexes ----- Constant
    --------------- Ambrosini ------------------
    - Montolivo ----------------- Muntari ------
    ----- KPB ------ Niang ------ El-Shaarawy

    Flamini and Bojan on the bench.
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    Registered User Haroon's Avatar
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    Barca's lineup is almost confirmed.

    ---------------- Valdes -------------------
    Alves ----- Puyol --- Piqué -------- Alba
    --------------- Busquets -----------------
    ------ Xavi ----------------- Iniesta -----
    ----- Messi ----- Villa ----- Adriano -----
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    Sempre Milan! Walker's Avatar
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    Should have been 1:1, instead we have 2:0. I hate this game sometimes.....
    in un mese hai perso moglie,tifosi e kakà,papi vendi la società

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    Senior Member Filipez's Avatar
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    No team can beat this barcelona on their day, and Messi is, well Messi.
    Forza Milan

    ALLEGRI OUT

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    Senior Member DonCorleone's Avatar
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    yeah well, I don't think we have played such a bad game... Barcelona was killer tonite... They have taken every chance and this is difficult... We've only let them 5 or 6 opportunities and they've scored 4. On other night they would have wasted them all or Niang would have scored and the game would have been over... We've started with too much respect and the early goal hurt us a lot...whenever we looked like getting somewhere they've scored. Constant was awful tonight, Ambrosini didn't have his night either but overally we've tried and we've never gave up... Montolivo, Abate and Boateng had good game. The result is harsh but we can walk with heads held high...
    "I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse" - Don Corleone

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    Registered User Haroon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walker View Post
    Should have been 1:1, instead we have 2:0. I hate this game sometimes.....
    Ah yes! It would have been interesting to see what would have happened at 1-1. Barcelona looked very strong at 1-0 but a blow like that can have a deflating and devastating effect. It would have maybe let doubts creep into their minds and given us more confidence and belief to play better. Many ifs. The killer blow was that they scored so quickly after that miss! It's like a double whammy.
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    Registered User Haroon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Filipez View Post
    No team can beat this barcelona on their day, and Messi is, well Messi.
    Messi didn't score two goals. He created the half chances and converted them into goals. That was sublime. His open play goals against an Italian side came late but what a pair of peachy goals! Got to applaud him for that. Genius.
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