Why Barcelona Should Win Big Against AC Milan
The glorious Champions League resumes for Barcelona as they travel to Italy to do battle with AC Milan on Wednesday. With box sides looking strong lately, fans are in for a treat.
AC Milan will be without Mario Balotelli who is cup-tied. However, Barcelona’s Xavi has recovered in time to make the squad list ahead of the encounter (via fcbarcelona).
Just looking at the names of these two giants tells fans that beautiful football will be played. But on paper, the match may not look as exciting as the hype it is receiving.
In this article we preview the Champions League clash, as well as see what to expect and some strong predictions.
AC Milan Will Be Too Dependent on Stephen El Shaarawy
Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
Without Mario Balotelli on the pitch, expect AC Milan to revert back to their early season problems of playing through Stephen El Shaarawy in an unhealthy way.
This Milan squad has certainly gotten stronger but against Barcelona they will need a bit more than they currently possess. Barcelona’s defense has been shaky this season; however, Milan will not be capable of capitalizing on their best chances.
With the Catalan back line being able to focus their strongest efforts on the young Italian; Milan may be left without another proven attacking option. El Shaarawy may be one of the best young talents in world football, but he is not quite ready to carry a team on this stage.
Expect the over-reliance of Milan to cost them. The Barcelona defense will be strong on the night and a clean sheet may even result from the issue.
The Barcelona Midfield Will Control the Game
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
The world, and AC Milan, is quite aware of the pure dominance of the Barcelona midfield. The Tiki-Taka system begins and ends with the midfielders and they will absolutely command the match.
Barcelona received good news recently when it was announced that Xavi had recovered from his injury and was listed in the squad (via fcbarcelona). Whether or not he will start is not yet determined, but his impact would prove vital.
If the maestro does not feature early expect young Thiago to take his place. The Spaniard has already been deemed Xavi’s heir and is ready to make his name in the Champions League.
Cesc Fábregas will provide a dangerous attack from the center of the pitch and has been linking up well with Lionel Messi lately. But it will be Sergio Busquets who will give Barcelona the clear edge.
Simply put, AC Milan does not have enough firepower to handle the Blaugrana midfield. With the build-up play of Barcelona nearly unstoppable, the game will be very long for the Italians.
Milan's Defense Will Prove Unreliable
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images
AC Milan has been soaring in their last few weeks of play, but defense is certainly not their strongest area. Against a formidable Barcelona attack, the Italian back line will struggle.
Expect La Blaugrana to attack Milan head on, but do not be surprised if the Catalans look to get behind the defense. With the constant overlap of the Barcelona fullbacks, Milan will have too much coming at them.
Milan’s defense is in no way bad. The Italian side is a solid club all around, but solid does not usually keep Barcelona at bay.
Any club looking to stifle Barcelona will need to be perfect defensively. Asking Milan to play perfect defense may be too much. It is very unlikely that they turn to parking the bus defensively, but it may be their best option.
With Lionel Messi requiring so much attention from the defense, his teammates will overload the pressure on Milan which could result in many goals.
Andres Iniesta Will Terrorize Milan
Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Every eye at the San Siro will be on Lionel Messi. But it will be Andres Iniesta who steals the show. With the freedom to operate on the left wing, expect the Spaniard to be in fine attacking form.
If history tells us anything, it is that Lionel Messi does not usually perform at his complete best against Italian opposition. Don’t expect Messi to be stopped, of course, but he will get most of the defensive attention.
That is where Iniesta comes in. With gaps left in Milan’s defense due to Messi’s presence, Iniesta is the perfect player to exploit the openings.
The World Cup champion will look to create chances and get behind the defense. Ever since moving to the wing, Iniesta has been in the form of his look. Expect the amazing play to continue for the 28-year-old.
Pedro recently stated that, “Barcelona is no overly dependent on Messi.” Certainly with the current form of Iniesta, that could prove true (via fcbarcelona).
The San Siro Has Not Been Kind to AC Milan
Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Normally playing at home gives the hosts a great advantage. But for AC Milan the San Siro will pose a threat that is odd for the world of football.
Astonishingly, the Milan-based club has not won a game at home in the Champions League this season. For some reason the San Siro has been an unlucky venue for the Italians and Barcelona will look to take this as an advantage.
Though The Rossoneri has won the last six matches at home, none of those competitions have been in a game quite this size.
In retrospect, Barcelona has won eight of their last 11 away games in the Champions League and is on a seven game unbeaten streak against the Italians (via Goal).
With Barcelona winning 22 of their last 24 match in the Champions League knockout round, AC Milan should be expected to fall. The San Siro may be their safe haven, but not in the Champions League.
Who will win at the San Siro? Will AC Milan show their class and secure a victory or will Barcelona flex their muscles? Don't forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.
Tre' Atkinson. Follow me on twitter for more discussions on Barcelona, La Liga, and the Champions League.