Barcelona surgically dismantled AC Milan yesterday at the Nou Camp by a score of 3-1. Behind Lionel Messi’s two penalty goals and a second half Andres Iniesta strike, the Catalans moved through to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, where they will face the winner of Chelsea-Benfica.
However, despite their usual brilliance, Barca was not as efficient in front of goal as we have come to expect them to be, with manager Pep Guardiola pointing out postgame that “we had 21 shots on goal and we could easily have scored seven times.”
Barca’s lack of finishing wasn’t as big an issue against Milan as it might have been, as the Italians were only able to muster three shots. It’s also likely to be insignificant in the next round of the Champions League, where either Chelsea or Benfica should be outmanned by the superior skill and discipline of the Spanish side.
However, should Barca reach the final, they will need to be clinical in front of goal. They will face either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, and both sides are gifted enough to take advantage of any miscues by the Barca front line. Neither team will allow Barca nearly as many opportunities as Milan did, and if Messi & Co. cannot slot home their chances, both Real and Bayern will fancy their chances in the one-game format of the Champions League final.
In addition, the inefficiency does not bode well for Barca’s pursuit of Real in La Liga. The Blaugrana are six points behind Los Blancos, with only eight matches left. Two weeks ago, it would have seemed unimaginable that Barca would even have a chance at the title, but with Real dropping points recently, the title race has reopened. But if Barca continues to waste goal chances, they will likely waste points as well, which would remove them from title contention.
It is completely possible that Barca’s struggles in front of goal were due to the stout Milan defense. This side, while not quite fitting the Italian stereotype of staunch defense and a lack of creativity, is indeed one of the most disciplined defensive teams in Europe. They have allowed only 24 goals in Serie A, second just to Juventus.
Milan, while undoubtedly disappointed that their Champions League campaign is over, should not be disheartened. They happened to run into the buzzsaw that is Barcelona, one of the greatest teams of all time. In fact, holding Barca to a 0-0 draw at San Siro is quite the accomplishment.
The Rossoneri are in a fight for the Serie A title, with rival Juventus just two points behind them in the chase for the Scudetto. Milan has looked much better domestically recently, despite their struggles in Europe with the second leg of their matchups versus Arsenal (3-0 loss) and Barcelona (3-1 loss). If they maintain their recent unbeaten domestic run, they should be in good shape going forward.