11th March 2013
Barcelona have a mountain to climb after the 2-0 defeat at San Siro, and they clearly need to show a massive improvement if they are to have a chance of making it to the quarter-finals. Milan played a perfect game in the first leg, and they need another impressive display in order to finish the job and eliminate mighty Barca.
There may be more reasons than one for Barcelona’s latest downtrend in fortunes, but the absence of Tito Vilanova has clearly been the biggest problem. The Catalans had been recording amazing results ever since the talented coach was trusted to replace Pep Guardiola, but his assistant Jordi Roura just could not keep the results at a respectable level, and he has got to take most of the blame for the disappointing run of results. Yes, Vilanova is still picking the team, but he is not there to motivate the players or deliver instructions from the dugout, which has proved to be a big issue. Over the last few weeks, Barcelona have dropped out of the Copa del Rey and lost to Real in La Liga, while suffering a 2-0 defeat to Milan in the Champions League, and this is one obstacle I don’t think they can overcome. The Catalans are clearly far from the desired form, struggling even against the weakest sides in Spain, and, in this state, they face a very difficult task in trying to overturn a two-goal advantage. They will have Xavi Hernandez back to the side, but it remains to be seen how much he can help the team after spending last two weeks on the sidelines.
Many had tried to prevent Barcelona from playing their tiqui taca football and failed, but it was Milan boss Max Allegri who not only masterminded a victory over the Catalans, but virtually stopped them from testing Christian Abbiati. The Rossoneri may have been somewhat fortunate to record a 2-0 victory, but it was nothing less than what they deserved for a spirited performance and amazing tactical awareness displayed. Milan have since continued with impressive showings, completely outclassing Inter in Derby della Madonnina, before recording comfortable wins over Lazio and Genoa, so it is perfectly clear the Rossoneri are brimming with confidence before the trip to Spain. Giampaolo Pazzini will be missed after doing so well in the first leg, but the absence of Mario Balotelli should not be a problem as he contributes almost nothing to the defensive stage of play. With Philippe Mexes and Kevin-Prince Boateng both back in contention, Milan stand a good chance of beating Barca to a place in the quarter-finals.
Barcelona would have problems overturning a two-goal deficit even if they were on top of their game, and with that clearly not the case at the moment, the Catalans look set for another disappointment. Milan are playing great football at the moment and they have too much quality and experience to squander the huge advantage.
Verdict: Milan to qualify
Best Odds: 8/11
Bookmaker: Stan James