Almost every Champions League fixture in the Round of 16 seems like a dream draw. AC Milan vs. Barcelona might be the most appetizing of them all.
In order to give such an epic match it's due, this preview is based on data gathered from each team's current form, specifically their last six matches. It presents a heavy dose of statistics, all obtained from Opta and WhoScored.
The statistics discussed here focus on record, goals, shots, shots allowed, goals allowed, passes and pass types. When combined, these metrics should provide a sense of how each club have been playing recently.
First, the two most important statistics in soccer: goals and shots.
Barcelona have been scoring in bunches as of late. The La Liga leaders boast 19 goals in their last six matches (four La Liga matches and two Copa Del Rey matches).
Milan have not been as potent, managing eight goals in their last six (all Serie A). The Italians are undefeated (four wins, two draws).
The Spanish club have also won four of their last six matches but lost one match to Real Sociedad, 3-2.
Despite scoring more than 50 percent less than the Spanish club, the Italian club attempted 20 more shots. Each club allowed nearly the same number of shots, the former 55 and the latter 53.
AC Milan have been better in preventing goals than Barcelona, conceding 50 percent less than Lionel Messi and company, eight goals conceded to four.
Next category: passing and pass types.
Per usual, the La Liga leader's have been passing circles around opponents. In their last six matches, they have attempted 4,840 total passes to Milan's 3,054, a difference of 1,786.
Their pass types, mostly short (4,367 short passes), suggest the obvious about Barcelona's tactics: Their style is the most unique of any team in the world.
AC Milan have looked long more frequently in their passing the last six games when compared to Barcelona. Of Milan's 3,054 passes, 380 have been long (12.4 percent).
Barcelona's figure is 319 (6.5 percent). The Spanish club attempted far more through balls, aiming to spilt defenders with a dangerous forward pass 57 times to the Italian club's 22, a difference of 35 through balls (5.8 per game).
In short, Barcelona have scored more than double the amount of goals, taken 20 fewer shots, attempted far more passes (mostly short passes) and lost one of their last six.
AC Milan have allowed 50 percent fewer goals, taken 20 more shots, attempted fewer passes (higher long-ball percentage than Barcelona) and went undefeated in their last six. They have allowed nearly the same number of shots.
Get some popcorn out, statistic junkies, this is going to be a fun one.