Anything can happen on the pitch, but not many expected to see AC Milan display such a dominating performance in a 2-0 victory against Barcelona. The first leg of the round of 16 held the same brand of football we’re accustomed to seeing in that Barcelona controlled 72 percent of the possession, but in this match they failed to get more than one shot on goal. As they travel back to Camp Nou to play the second leg, Barcelona has a tough mountain to climb, but they have the tools to come out on top.
Barcelona and AC Milan are quite familiar when it comes to Champions League play. Last year they faced each other four times in the tournament and Barca came out on top with eight goals to five.
Whenever AC Milan gets the better of them, Lionel Messi and company come back with a strong message. A 2-2 tie in the first stage last year was followed by a 3-2 victory, and when they reached a 0-0 draw in the round of 16, Barcelona responded with a 3-1 win.
Early in the season when Barcelona lost to Real Madrid, they went 11-0-1 over the next 12 games while outscoring their opponents by 21 goals. Then they suffered a loss to Celtic, but managed to have an even more impressive streak with a record of 13-0-2.
Barcelona averaged 3.13 goals per game during this stretch.
In games where revenge is involved, Barcelona always plays determined football and with their Champions League lives on the line, they’ll play more motivated than ever.
A year ago, Barcelona was undefeated at home in their Champions League campaign. Camp Nou gave Barca a 4-0-2 record and a goal differential of +14. This season has been the same way. They are 2-0-1 at home during the tournament and throughout the season have an 11-0-1 record at Camp Nou. This season, Barcelona has thrived at home by scoring 42 goals and only giving up 10.
What makes matters even better for Barcelona are AC Milan’s struggles on the road. Going up against a a great home squad, AC Milan doesn’t come in with the best away record this year; they are 4-6-3.
When it comes to competition on the global stage, AC Milan has come short in recent years. Other than the first leg against Barcelona, they haven’t even been impressive during this Champions League run with a 2-2-2 record. Milan’s goal differential is only plus one, which puts them at plus four for the last three years.
To put that into perspective, Barcelona has a goal differential of +33 in their last three years in the Champions League.
The best footballer in the world has continued to add to his legacy this year with his outstanding play in La Liga. In 25 games, the 25-year-old has scored 38 goals and has his Barca squad alone at the top of the table. Other than the first leg against AC Milan, Messi has brought this great play to the Champions League by recording five goals in seven games.
When it comes to the knockout stages, Messi always comes through for Barcelona. In the last two years, he has 14 goals in 13 games beyond the group stage, including a five-goal performance against Bayer Leverkusen. Messi will have to play up to his expected greatness and the rest of his team needs to follow suit as they face a tough challenge on March 12. But there is no doubt that they are certainly capable to come out victorious.