An invitation was sent to the following B/R writers Tre’ Atkinson and Rob Train. The intention was to discuss one of the greatest matches to be celebrated in the current UEFA Champions League.
Will FC Barcelona prevail against AC Milan to advance to the next round? Please sit back, relax, and feel free to comment at the end of the slideshow. Thank you.
FC Barcelona vs AC Milan
The first step in getting past AC Milan begins with the mindset. Milan has not been their usual selves this year and the world has noticed. But Barcelona must not allow this to affect their approach.
They must enter the game with the mindset that AC Milan is as big as the name suggests. Any kind of downplaying the game could be disastrous. Secondly, the defense will have to be prepared to work harder than usual.
Entering the game, Barcelona will have played so many straight La Liga matches that the defense will not be as battle-ready as they should. La Liga is much easier and the defenders have not had as much to do.
But against Milan, this will have to be addressed. The victory will absolutely start with the defense and stopping the attack of El-Sharawwy. With a strong Milan attack, it may be best for Barcelona to not play with two attacking full-backs. Montoya and Alba lining up may be the smartest move.
But of all the defenders, Mascherano will have to step up the most, unless Pique and Puyol can play both encounters. Next, Barcelona must continue to use Iniesta at the left-wing with Cesc and Xavi in midfield.
It is creating more chances than ever and will be the best way to attack the struggling Milan defense. But this also means that the other winger must be prepared to score. Whether it is Pedro or someone else, goals must be provided. Barcelona cannot hope to place the scoring load on Messi.
Though Milan's defense is not as strong as in recent years, this is still the champions league. Lastly, the team will have to play Busquets in both games. This may mean that he will have to be rested in La Liga action at some point, but he is vital to Barcelona's success.
We have already seen this year how weak the Barcelona build up is with Busquets out of the lineup. He must play a part in both encounters to make the Tiki-Taka offense as strong as it can be, while also giving great cover for the defense with a tough job.
FC Barcelona vs. AC Milan
Barcelona doesn't need to change much from the same fixture last season to progress; Tito Vilanova's team will practically unaltered from the first leg last year, with only Seydou Keita from the starting 11 having moved on.
MIlan, on the other hand, have lost a couple of notable players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Pato, Antonio Cassano, Thiago Silva and veteran Alessandro Nesta, but has added a certain Nigel de Jong, who Barcelona's Spain players will remember fondly.
But a promotion from within -- Stephan El Shaarawy -- holds the key to Milan's hopes. With 17 goals in 29 games so far for Milan and another for his country, the young Italy striker is one of the hottest properties in Europe.
Barcelona will need to keep him quiet and hope that Bojan doesn't come on to have one of those 'against my old team' kind of games. Milan captain Massimo Ambrosini is also a doubt for the first leg. A 0-0 in Milan will do very nicely again for Barcelona. Even a one-goal deficit would lead few bookmakers to shorten the odds on Barcelona going through at Camp Nou.
FC Barcelona vs. Osasuna
Barca will have a tough time in the first leg at Milan. AC Milan has Stephan Al Shaarawy and the home advantage. The second leg will be in La Blaugrana's favor at Camp Nou.
My advice is to be prepared for an exciting match between two giants in European football.
Bold Predictions for Group of 16
AC Milan 2-3 FC Barcelona
Messi will net all three goals.
FC Barcelona 5-4 AC Milan
Messi will net four of the five goals
I would like to thank Tre' Atkinson and Rob Train for their time in this roundtable discussion. My thanks to the B/R readers for their time in viewing the slideshow.
My best wishes to all of you until the next time.