CL Preview: Barcelona v Milan 2:45pm EST [UPDATED]

I am Zlatan. Who the hell are you?

So, Milan, we meet again.

Last year, we played them in the Gamper, beating them on penalties, in what was a strange sequence of events which cumulated in record signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic leaving with the Milanese club. Just over a year later and we’re squaring up again.

It’d be easy to make this whole preview about Ibra, Mino Raiola, mental institutions, philosophers and that whole transfer snafu, but it’s always more productive to talk about the actual football (and I just told a story the last time I did a preview).

So, uh, the tactical attempt makes a comeback. I know Milan a bit because I’ve always liked them since the Shevchenko days, mostly because my sister was a Juve supporter, but Pirlo (#dathair)-Kaka-Seedorf-Maldini was too hard to resist. (SHEVA!!!!). Though, Udinese’s been my team since last year, and I’m bandwagoning hard on Roma this year for obvious reasons.

My allegiances aside, I’ll be looking to give you guys some sort of idea of how they’ll play. I’m no expert, so apologies for the people who know this already and were hoping for Euler-esque insight.

Players To Watch

Besides the obvious players in Pato, Ibra, Robinho (if he’s fit), and Cassano, here are some players to keep an eye on:

Alberto Aquilani: Liverpool and Roma fans will recognize this man. (Well, maybe not the Liverpool fans…) The main source of creatively in the midfield, Aquilani will be looking to pull the strings. He’s not quick, but makes up for his lack of pace with his vision.

 

 

 

 

Kevin Prince Boateng: Jnice’s homeboy, the Ghana international is very fast and a decent dribbler, though his technical skills aren’t anything to write home about. Very hardworking, so he’ll be running for 90 minutes. Is a bit selfish, though, so if a good scoring lane opens itself to him, he’ll go for it rather than pass the ball. But his main attributes are his dynamism and working rate.

 

 

 

 

 

Mark van Bommel: A former player of ours, signed for Milan from Bayern this summer. I say watch out for him, but really I mean beware. I don’t want to say he’s dirty — okay, he’s dirty — but he gets the job done. A pure destroyer, look for him to be on Xavi especially. (*says a quick prayer for Xavi’s tendons*)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thiago Silva: Strong defender, good in the air, with a great positional sense. He’s like Puyol/Mascherano type of defender in that they come, they see, and they conquer. Technically ability is above average, and is very good on the ball. Long balls to Ibra is something to look out for. Is usually the first to put out the fire. Didn’t have a great game against Lazio on Friday, but there is no doubt he’s a world class defender, the best in Serie A last season IMO.

Basic Overview

As we all know, formations are arbitrary and don’t really stay that way. But for simplicity sake, we assign numbers to positions and formations to explain things better.

Milan play a 4-3-1-2. Boateng is the ‘1’ behind the ‘2’ of Pato and Ibrahimovic. van Bommel, Ambrosini, and Aquilani form the ‘3’, with Antonini*, Thiago Silva, Nesta and Abate at the back. Boeteng, Aquilani, Ambrosini, and van Bommel form something like a diamond shape in the midfield, while Pato plays just off Ibrahimovic on the right. For a visual representation:

Milan's base formation

Gennaro Gattuso and Philippe Mexes are suspended and won’t feature. *We could see Taiwo or Zambrotta there instead. Both were injured, it seems, and were unavailable for Milan against Lazio.  Also, I’m too lazy go and change the formations just for one player. Sub in Taiwo for Antonini and you get the same idea.

[Update] Robinho and Ibrahimovic are both injured for this game and are unavailable. As the only forwards available, Pato and Cassano will start.

Full Milan Squad:

GOALKEEPERS – Abbiati, Amelia, Rome.

DEFENDERS – Abate, Antonini, Bonera, Nesta, Taiwo, Thiago Silva, Zambrotta, Yepes.

Midfield – Ambrosini, Aquilani, Boateng, Emanuelson, Nocerino, Seedorf, Van Bommel.

FORWARDS – Cassano, Pato.

Milan in attack

When in possession of the ball, Milan primarily attack through the right. Pato has the freedom to either cut inside, or take on the defender. Abate pushes up from the right back position, like Alves, to overlap/support. Boateng also stays near the center-right position.

Milan heavily rely on their forwards for creativity, but have added Aquilani to help take the load of them and have some creativity in the midfield. Expect Aquilani to see the ball quite a bit, looking to either spread play, or play balls into space.

Ambrosini comes over to cover for Abate pushing up. van Bommel also plays a bit deeper, just in front the CB pairing (think Busi in front of our CBs). Antonini is the ‘stay-at-home’ left back, but does move further forward to support Aquilani. Thiago Silva and Nesta stay behind. In the end it looks something like so:

Milan in attack. Ambrosini covers Abate who pushes up.

Though it doesn’t look like it in the picture above (I tried to show it as best I could while also staying true to reality), there is actually a lot of space behind Ambrosini. Why is this relevant? I’ll get to that in a bit.

Milan in defense

The above is all well and good if Milan have the ball, but it’s safe to say we’ll be having it most of the time.

Milan are a 4-4-1-1 in defense. Aquilani and Boateng move back, and Pato plays just behind Ibrahimovic, forming the ‘1’s. See below:

Milan in defense. Aquilani and Boateng move back.

In both defense and attack, Milan are very, very narrow. What does that mean? It means that there are a lot of players squeezed close to each other. They aren’t spread out wide, and there is not a lot of space between them.

Why is this relevant? Ambrosini, Aquilani and van Bommel don’t have much pace. Neither does Nesta, for that matter. If Ambrosini loses the ball while Milan are in attack, or the ball is played over to whoever we have on the left, both Ambrosini and van Bommel will struggle to keep up with that player, even moreso when we have additional players supporting the one on the ball.

This is where the loss of Alexis really, really hurts. He’s the perfect player to play this Milan as he exploits almost all their vulnerabilities to a tee. In a scenerio where Abate loses the ball, just for an example, if the ball is played to Alexis, he has Ambrosini to beat and then is in acres of space to take on Nesta and go for goal, or cross the ball. van Bommel could come over, but will probably have Iniesta and Messi to track as well. What Ambrosini could do is just tactical foul: block Alexis completely, but then he runs the risk of getting yellows and being sent off.

We don’t have Alexis though, and that, well, sucks. But the great thing about this Barca team is that we have other options.

To Summarize:

Milan’s main two vulnerabilities are:

Lack of pace in midfield: once they lose the ball, they struggle to make up distance. Good tacklers of the ball, but with the quick feet of our players, they may be forced to tactical foul.

Very narrow formation: makes them susceptible to width. Combined with the above means wingers with great ball control and pace are terrible for them.

Now to the Barcelona side of things

Considering only our midfield and Messi can score goals (last 9 goals have been scored by Messi, Fabregas, Thiago and Xavi), it seems like all our forward line (read: Pedro and Villa) will be doing is flailing their arms around and being offside.

To some people, Villa in particular will be the place where attacks go to die. Xavi plays a ball over the top for Villa from deep? In the minds of cules (read: mine) it’ll go something like so:

A wild GOALSCORING CHANCE has appeared!

What will DAVID VILLA do?

–> SLOT THE BALL PAST THE GOALKEEPER
–> DRIFT INTO AN OFFSIDE POSITION
–> HIT THE POST
–> ROUND THE GOALKEEPER AND SLOT THE BALL INTO OPEN NET

DAVID VILLA used DRIFT INTO AN OFFSIDE POSITION!

It’s super effective! DAVID VILLA is flagged offside. GOALSCORING CHANCE took 99% damage!

GOALSCORING CHANCE has disappeared!

Flawless Victory!

…Except it won’t really go that way.

All jokes and sarcasm aside, Villa does represent a real danger to defenses; it’s just not on the wing. He can maintain decent width, but he’s a passable dribbler at most. Taking on defenders isn’t his strong suit, and he doesn’t have much pace either, so running with the ball is not really an option either.

What Villa is, is a finisher, so getting the ball into space and having a clear shot at goal is where he really excels. Which is why his skill set is great for a team that’s not Milan, and why I think he shouldn’t start.

Who do I propose to start?

– Afellay. I know, I know. He’s just coming back from injury, didn’t really have a preseason, and is not match fit. But this is a game Ibi will really excel in. Got oodles of pace, good 1v1 dribbler, and his crossing ability is probably the best on the team IMO.

– Abidal at CB. I know, I know. We’ll miss him at left-back. But we really need pace in the center of our defense. Pato is quick, very quick. With Adriano, who is no slouch in the speed department himself, also there to double up, we can neutralize Pato quite well.

– Mascherano at CB. No duh, right? Ideally, I would have wanted Pique here, but Mascherano is a very good alternate to mark Ibra. Close marking plus strong tackling prowess is a good combo to have.

Proposed XI

VV
Alves – Mascherano – Abidal – Adriano
Xavi – Busi – Iniesta
Pedro – Messi – Afellay

Our Starting Eleven

We have all the tools to cause Milan some serious, serious problems. One large advantage we have is Camp Nou. It is a very very big pitch, and with Milan staying narrow, we’ll have a lot of space on the flanks to exploit. This space coupled with the lack of pace of key defenders, means things could get very ugly for them if we play our cards right.

With Afellay’s lack of match fitness, we’ll most likely see him start on the bench to come on in the second half (hopefully). I don’t want to see Iniesta at LW, as it makes us more narrow which plays into Milan’s hands, but the Villa complexity is an interesting one. I’d bank on Villa regardless of the trade-offs he brings.

Puyol has also gotten the green light and could get some minutes. Puyi for Adriano, pushing Abidal to left-back, could happen, though we’d miss Abidal’s pace in the middle. Besides, I like complementing pairs at the center of defense (Puyol-Masche is too similar).

3 Things that journalists (read: me) wish would happen during the match:

– Ibra and Villa have a b*tchfight offside. ‘You’re only here because I left!’ screams the Swede. Inzaghi tries to join in from the stands, but is held back by security.

– Gattuso makes a surprise reappearance and somehow gets into an actual fight with Mascherano. Afterwards, they express their mutual respect for each other while snarling.

– Fabregas stays on the bench the whole game. Still manages to score.

Official prediction: Hard to say. Depends on how we are on the day. I’m gonna say we will be on like Tron, so Barcelona 3-0 Milan.

Englishman Martin Atkinson will be the referee for CL match (*van Bommel does a happy dance*).

Game is on Sportsnet in Canada, FSC and ESPN3 in US (I think. I check around, but it’s not on ESPN or ESPN2).

(For those who didn’t get the reference in the first image’s caption, I give you this. Language warning!

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97 Comments

  1. IamXavi6
    September 12, 2011

    Thanks for the preview. I’m feeling a bit brash here but I can’t see Milan getting anywhere near us, especially after our result on the weekend.

    I’m tipping Barca-4-1 in a pretty dominant display against. Sorry Serie A guys…your league and your teams really don’t cut the mustard against the very ‘elite’ of Europe. Including EE *runs*

  2. BarcaGirl_Indo
    September 12, 2011

    okay, I might sound stupid, but I really don’t know. what’s wrong with Martin Atkinson?

    thanks a lot for the preview, Kari!
    I like it very much when a girl talks about tactic, formation, strategy in football! Girl power! 😀

    I don’t know who’s gonna be in the left wing (ideally it’s Sanchez),
    but I know Abate is a tough defender and very fast.
    even Thong Boy had a hard time with him last season.

    if it’ll be Villa, unless Villa could take opportunity when Abate is out of position, I don’t think Villa could beat him one on one. and that means the left side will be dead.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 12, 2011

      and that “I am Zlatan” video never fail to make me laugh 😆

    • September 12, 2011

      He’s English, so they tend to let a lot more things go than other referees. It’s not really, or shouldn’t be, an issue for us, but van Bommel tends to tactical foul and do lot of…sneaky…things.

  3. Whatever
    September 12, 2011

    It’s time that Guardiola rolls out our best available lineup. Enough with “stupid” experiments!

    I expect:

    Valdes
    Alves – Mascherano – Abidal – Adriano
    Xavi – Busquets – Iniesta
    Pedro – Messi – Villa

  4. t4f4dzw4
    September 12, 2011

    The problem most people have with Guardiola is that while he is being ‘tactical’, some of us who are not tactically minded just see players being played out of position, which is frustrating when it does not work.

  5. Josep
    September 12, 2011

    It’s super effective! DAVID VILLA is flagged offside. GOALSCORING CHANGE took 99% damage!

    GOALSCORING CHANCE has disappeared!

    Now I’m assuming this is somewhat RPG-related, or pokemon. If you deal 99% damage to something, shouldn’t it have 1% left and not disappear/die?

    COME ON

    • Ryan
      September 12, 2011

      That’s definitely from the Pokemon video game.

      I assume the goal scoring chance already took some damage, perhaps from a fluffed shot or misplaced pass. 😆

    • Josep
      September 12, 2011

      so we’re talking 99% of his maximum HP, rather than his minimum HP?

    • Ryan
      September 12, 2011

      Yeah, from the maximum.

    • September 12, 2011

      Ryan’s got the right idea.

      COME ON, MAN.

  6. Josep
    September 12, 2011

    But if we’re talking for serious I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alves/Adriano on the wing backs, or pushed up into maybe a 3-5-2

    masch abi busi
    Alves xavi iniesta adriano
    messi
    pedro villa

    with the width coming from adriano and alves, it drops Messi a bit deep but allows us to dominate numbers in the midfield, and use the natural width that our wide wing backs would be giving, and allow their work rate to dominate the touchline.

  7. The__K__Man
    September 12, 2011

    Official: Ibrahimovic and Robinho will not be playing tomorrow due to injuries.

  8. Eklavya
    September 12, 2011

    Barcastuff
    Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not travel to Barcelona for Barca-Milan clash after suffering last minute injury during last training session for match [La Gazzeta dello Sport] #fcblive

    Barcastuff
    However AC Milan officials have not published anything about Zlatan injury yet and have included him in called up squad list #fcblive

    • Whatever
      September 12, 2011

      Barcastuff is alive?

    • The__K__Man
      September 12, 2011

      No. But there are a lot of fake accounts.

    • Whatever
      September 12, 2011

      Where? Gimme the best one.

    • Eklavya
      September 12, 2011

      Well, there’s a fan of the original barcastuff who created an account on Facebook. ‘Fake’ or not, it’s the information I care about and this guy delivers it fine. Only thing is I don’t like my FB feed cluttered up (twitter =\= FB).

    • Whatever
      September 12, 2011

      What’s the address?

  9. The__K__Man
    September 12, 2011

    AC Milan has always been my 2nd team but of course I’m going with Barça all the way this match. In fact I wouldn’t mind a ‘hiding’ to make up for Saturday….and to shut up a lot of whiny Milan fans talking about diving and such all week long.

    My view on some of the player:

    Attack: Ibra and Robinho are out. Pato hasn’t played a lot lately so he’s out of form. Cassano had a very good match vs Lazio but both player’s won’t press our pressure even if their lives depended on it but they are still dangerous players.

    Midfield: They have a LOT of destroyers but most of them are old. Don’t know if they can keep up with us. Boateng is the one to watch for.

    Defenders: LB: Antonini and Taiwo are very susceptible defensively.
    CB:Thiago Silva is the best CB in the world on his day. Nesta had a horror show last match but still one of the best ever.
    RB: Abate as energetic as they come . He even stopped Thong Boy in last year’s CL.
    With smart movements and passes Villa can overcome him but not through pace or dribbling probably.

    Did I say I expect a ‘hiding’?

    • September 12, 2011

      As I noted in the Twitterverse, footy writers are like frustrated telenovela fans who lash out when a story line changes. “La Liga is a joke! How dare Barca drop points to Sociedad!”

      If they’d been paying attention to our form at Sociedad, this would have been easy to predict. As easy as predicting the backlash. The same people who gibbered gobs of gushy goo at the quality of our play now have to backtrack. Nothing can be that good, even if they said it was. It’s silly, really.

      Contempt? Boring? What I saw was what I described in my review, a side that thought the match was over, only they forgot to tell Sociedad. More importantly, they forgot to do the work to make SURE that it was over. And so it wasn’t. Until it was.

    • Josep
      September 12, 2011

      it’s easy to predict we would’ve drawn against Sociedad?

      right.

    • The__K__Man
      September 12, 2011

      I don’t know who this Phil is nor do I care. I’ve read a lot of crap about Barça over the years but this really has to be the pinnacle. Criticizing a team for not playing their best after being 2-0 up and labeling it as “anti-football” and then saying City and Madrid are the most entertaining teams?
      It’s our fault team can’t get the ball? Are we supposed to give it to them?
      Crap.

  10. Eklavya
    September 12, 2011

    VV
    Alves Puyol Abidal Adriano
    Xavi Busi Iniesta
    Pedro Messi Afellay

    We might see Cesc in there somewhere, but I really hope Afellay starts. I still think we underate him.

  11. tutomate
    September 12, 2011

    Just got back from my depression trip after the loss I mean tie. And I have two comments.

    1. I vehemently disagree with Kxevins obviously bias rating of David Villa. The Man had an assist not may forwards could have made. I mean did you look at that pass it was beautiful. This just shows that there is nothing David could do to make Kxevin happy.

    2. I want to utterly destroy Milan. Not so much for vindication over the weekends draw nor because I dislike them. Just because the Milan fans are rarely insightful (much like I) and are just annoying with their constant whining about diving and such. I mean they have Robinho and Cassano in their team.

    • September 12, 2011

      That’s true. It was a brilliant ball, wasn’t it? I stand corrected. He gets a 10.

    • Blau-Grenade
      September 12, 2011

      You guys are too funny!!! Hahahahaha. Rolling in laughter.

  12. Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
    September 12, 2011

    Everything seemed okay until I read: “Englishman Martin Atkinson will be the referee for CL match”

    We still might win but it’s going to be a dirty, dirty game. Van Bommel was a loveable player for us because he’s such a dirty sneaky player and got away with it. So I fully expect him to be the same.

  13. September 12, 2011

    Allegri (Milan coach): “To play defensively against Barça would be suicide. We’ll try to play a very physical match.”

    Yep. van Bommel’s getting his studs ready. F*ck.

  14. September 12, 2011

    Just a quick note re the sociedad game… I think its a good thing, we always have these games early on in the season, last year it was hercules. It reminds the players that we are not invincible and they if they switch off, no matter who the oppsition then we will pay. I would much rather have these games nice and early to remind the players that they have to keep working hard if they want to win. It also takes away some of the hyperbole surrounding the team after the summer. Most people were saying that with Sanchez and Cesc we are now unbeatable so this is a good notice to the players that we are no such thing. Games like these keep our players humble and thats a good thing.

    The only thing that REALLY pisses me off is the Sanchez injury. I was so looking forward to seeing him integrate with the team and these early injuries can cause real setbacks in the integration process. He looked one of the best players on the pitch till he came off. That for me was a lot worse than dropping the two points!

    • Blau-Grenade
      September 12, 2011

      I am REALLY pissed regarding the Sanchez injury as well. That was such a shame. Can’t wait for the dude to be back.

  15. September 12, 2011

    I think if we play even at 75% we should easily win this. Milan’s defense is always a suspect and our boys could easily exploit it. I don’t think we underrate Afellay, I believe we over-rate him. He is a one dimensional player and his whole game is based on speed on the wing. For me he is a down graded version of Theo Walcott and would be very effective if we bring him when the opposition defense gets tired up, at least in a UCL game.

    It surprises me that people have already written off Villa as a viable option. Sanchez did bring something to Barca style of play. But because of that if you are going to expect Villa to suddenly transform himself into a winger, I would say it crazy.

    • Kariyanna
      September 12, 2011

      After Affelay performance against Madrid in the 2nd Leg and after this pre-season I rate him alot more than I used to. I agree with bringing in him after the 60min mark but calling him overrated or a down graded version of Theo Walcott I disagree.

      Yes he is not a started in these kind of big games such as Milan but against sides such as Sociedad he can make a difference.
      His passing skills added with his speed on wings makes him perfect for our system. His game isn’t only based on speed. He is also quite a good dribbler, down graded Iniesta is more like it.

    • Eklavya
      September 12, 2011

      Lol, seriously?! Walcott can run very fast but his passing/crossing skills are crap. He always runs down towards the line but his final balls are not always top notch.

      Afellay has great speed/acceleration, very good long shot and endurance, good vision, dribbling skills and work rate. And on top of that he can play midfielder or winger. He still adds something new to the team with his long shots, right? He’s the one who broke through Real’s defense and ‘made the difference’ remember?, EE >>> Socieadad.

      I don’t think he’s a stater in our best XI possible, but almost everyone had written off Adriano even as a fill-in player, yet he was one of the best players against real in the 2nd league match and he’s been improving. Afellay is not a finished product, and if we give him minutes he’ll improve even more (just like everyone). I just think we can take his role in the team much more further and increase his potential as well as his play.

    • Neel
      September 13, 2011

      down graded version of Theo? What??? Theo is faster that too without the ball…except that he is behind Ibi in all department… there is a difference between a Dutch NT starter/ sub and English starter/ sub.

  16. Kariyanna
    September 12, 2011

    Btw whatever happened to our gravatars?

    • Calvin
      September 12, 2011

      I knew I hadn’t seen your name in a while, but has it really been that long?

    • Eklavya
      September 12, 2011

      Lol, my thoughts exactly.

    • Josep
      September 12, 2011

      they want donations to bring them back because it eats up too much bandwidth

      BLOG HASNT BEEN THE SAME EVER SINCE THOSE SELLOUTS

    • Calvin
      September 12, 2011

      We decided to divert all the donations to a vacation fund. We each get one nice vacation a year, which isn’t too bad.

    • Eklavya
      September 12, 2011

      WE WERE TOLD THEY WOULD COME BACK AFTER THE CLASICOS. Avatars > vacations!

    • Calvin
      September 12, 2011

      Yeah, but that was before I got my pay doubled!

    • September 12, 2011

      DOUBLED?! What?! They told me it was to pay for Isaiah’s wedding!

    • mani
      September 13, 2011

      Nice try, QATAR.

  17. Dani_el
    September 12, 2011

    Thank you Kari for this insightful preview. You did great!

    Whispers of winter’s next silly season. Now the news is that Manchester City is gonna make an offer of 40M + for Busquets.

    I say HELL no! I saw the Barça – EE game of 2008 just for fun, and when Busi entered the field he own the game, I knew he was great, but I didn’t know he was that great with at 20 years old. I hope if he is played where he belongs (DM) and he keeps growing, he retires in this team.

    • September 12, 2011

      Thanks, Dani_el! :mrgreen:

      Busi is the best kept secret in football. I say we keep it that way! 😉

  18. ElJefe
    September 12, 2011

    No Ibra?? Well this makes the match alot less exciting. Looks like his UCL woes continue…

    You heard it hear first: Van Bommel will actually, literally behead a player with a challenge during this match. Hopefully it will be one of the B-teamers.

  19. Miguel
    September 12, 2011

    Raging man crush on Kari from reading this post. Those diagrams are awesome!

    • September 12, 2011

      Dude, you don’t know how long I’ve been itching to use them. Finally found the perfect excuse. 😀

    • mom4
      September 12, 2011

      Good review by Ramzi, but I don’t think that after the R. Sociedad result we’ll have an overconfidence problem. You come into the game a much humbler, more motivated side when you throw away a 0-2 lead like we did.

      Good review, Kari. You’re rocking those diagram thingies.

      2 morrow we have
      2 high school kids on
      2 different varsity teams with
      2 different games at
      2 different ends of the state, with
      2 parents dividing and conquering
      = 1 DVRed game that we’re gonna rush home to watch!

      It’s time to start our best available XI for a change.
      VV
      Alves, Masch/Puyi, Abi, Adriano
      Xaviniesta, Busi
      MVP
      subs:
      Puyi if he doesn’t start.
      Would love to see me some Ibi, but don’t start him first time back from an injury.
      And somewhere around the 60th, we’re bringing cescy back!

      5-0 and why not. The players have to be humble, not I. The Freixenet is chillin’ in the fridge to toast the manita(or any kind of victory) with cava (on a weekday no less, Mon Dieu)!

    • mom4
      September 12, 2011

      Gonna be so hard to pay attention to a kid’s game and not peek at the liveblog for spoilers.

    • September 12, 2011

      Deserve a proper manita, TBQH.

  20. htMillBay
    September 12, 2011

    Milan don’t have their two first choice forwards, and of their 2 forwards left, one is not in 90 min. shape. Expect Milan to play even more defensive than they would have and to play for the draw in their away game. So it will be defense in depth and even their counters will be conservative.

    Sanchez’s role in this game would have been obvious but he’s not available. No one has really mentioned Fabregas’ potential role. Any ideas out there?

    I don’t think we s/d be under rating Villa. Yes, he can’t dribble through space like Messi, Iniesta, Sanchez or Ibi but I’ve seen him dribble through crowds before a golazo. Pep was planning to rest him during the RS game obviously for the CL leg but he had to come on when Alexis was injured. I predict a Villa goal just to shut up the doubters. Villa was golden in the Euro qualifier.

    The key to the game will be Iniesta and Pep knows this that’s why Don Andres didn’t even play in the Liga game.

    I’m not sure Xavi can play the whole 90 minutes after playing in the Liga game and the NT games. Perhaps, that’s where Cesc comes in.

    Though the interplay between Messi, Cesc, Iniesta and Xavi will be the way to unlock the Milan defense. Milan will crowd the middle so Alvez and Adriano will be forward a lot in this match. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dani scores on a glozo.

    Which means a 3 man backline most of the time since Milan won’t be so adventurous either. Effectively a 3-5-2 in defense as mentioned above versus Milan’s 4-4-2. I think Milan will be more compact than usual.

  21. messifan
    September 12, 2011

    Great preview Kari! Win or lose I love this team regardless. OT: has anyone seen the blue training kits? They look pretty especially with no sponsorship on the front. And Novak Djokovic wins the US Open 🙂

  22. Kimcelona
    September 12, 2011

    Nice review Kari!
    I really admire AC Milan, only second to Barca. I would say I started watching them a short time after I discovered Barca and club football but Barca has my heart, ofcourse.

    I hope we don’t make any bones about it though,Milan WILL “park the bus,” as us cules so hatefully call it. So, width is VERY important in this game. Dani, Pedrito and hopefully if Iniesta plays out left wing will widen the pitch.

    And Kari, as one of the dying breed of Villa supporters, I have to remind you that Villa scored in the Bernabeu 🙂

    • Gogah
      September 13, 2011

      when did he score in the bernabeu?

  23. September 12, 2011

    Just for clarification, I’m not anti-Villa, far from it actually.

    Whilst it was a bad joke filled with sarcasm (consider it late venting for the Sociedad assist), I don’t think I’m underrating Villa at all — just pointing out some weaknesses in his game. The reason he’s offside so much is that he doesn’t have much pace, so he usually plays on the shoulder of the defender hoping to get as close to a head start as possible. That’s just a fact. Not his fault, but it is what it is.

    Probably not talking about me in particular but I should say that I’m not doubting Villa’s ability; he’s world class and he hasn’t suddenly become crap and useless overnight. All I’m saying is his skill set, from a tactical point of view, isn’t ideal against Milan — a destabilizing player who can run at defenses would be. Play a ball into space for Villa and he’s a danger. There won’t be much space tomorrow (until we make some via off-the-ball movement that is), especially now that Ibra and Robinho are definitely out. Would he still pull something out of his hat and create danger? Probably, that’s what World Cup winning, 40m strikers are expected to and usually do. But his effectiveness won’t be at its peak, so if people do start bashing Villa, it’s good to remember this type of system isn’t suited to his style. Not an excuse, just a fact.

    Considering Messi is the one one who can do that now that Alexis is injured, I figure Ibi would be a nice alternative, but he hasn’t played regularly in a long time. In my fantasy world, he’d start, but in reality I don’t think Pep will want to rush him back, especially since it’s a hamstring injury he’s recovering from. Ibi needs to slowly gain some minutes. That means that two of Pedro, Villa and Cesc will most likely start.

    Villa’s a greater goalscoring threat than Pedro right now; heck, that goes for Cesc too. With Milan most likely sitting deep, the need for pressing won’t be at its highest, which basically takes out the biggest thing Pedro has to offer right now. (Note: I’m not anti-Pedro either). And they won’t be much of a threat, bar the odd counter attack, so I’m going go with Ramzi on this one and say Villa and Cesc (making forward runs) will start up front; Adriano and Alves could be enough to maintain the width.

    We can always sub Pedro for Cesc in the second half if it doesn’t work out.

    OT: DJOKER!!!! I was Team Djokovic all da way. Eat it, Madridista with the perpetual wedgie! 😀 (He’s not a bad guy, Nadal, but he is a EE-dista. Left with no choice really. I’m also on the Swiss side of the Federer-Nadal rivalry)

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 12, 2011

      OT: DJOKER!!!! I was Team Djokovic all da way. Eat it, Madridista with the perpetual wedgie! 😀 (He’s not a bad guy, Nadal, but he is a EE-dista. Left with no choice really. I’m also on the Swiss side of the Federer-Nadal rivalry)

      100% agree with everything you said there 😀

    • Dani_el
      September 13, 2011

      I don’t know about that, sometimes when Djokovic celebrated it reminded me of Cristiano. I don’t like cocky sportsmen, and Nadal was a gentleman through and through.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 13, 2011

      I watched his interviews and videos, and he seems like a nice guy to me..

      I love Djokovic, though I love Federer more..

      Nadal, not a fan, but I don’t hate him either..

    • Dani_el
      September 13, 2011

      I like Federer too, he had a most impresive career, I like when the technique beats the physical part, that’s why I am culé.

    • Ryan
      September 13, 2011

      When Nadal wins, Spain wins, so I’m happy with him just winning during Euro and WC years!

  24. September 12, 2011

    Great preview Kari, thanks! 🙂
    Really really want ibi to play..
    Wonder if pep’s startin villa, probably would (hope n0t)… But might sub him early if he fails to deliver..
    Or we’ll probably see cesc start over Pedro/villa? We’ll see… Should be an interesting line up.

    Nyway,OT: any tennis player supporting barça at all? US open had a madridista and milanista for the finals.. Glad the djoker won!

  25. puchanamano
    September 12, 2011

    i keep on reading that the camp nou pitch is very very big. aren’t football pitches standard in size?

    • Ryan
      September 12, 2011

      No, there is a range to choose from. And Barça’s is on the larger side of the spectrum.

    • September 12, 2011

      There is a range to choose from, though I’d say that the extent to which this actually affects Barca is overstated. It’s sort of become a throwaway comment in Barca Champions League articles, to casually mention the width of the Camp Nou helping Barca.

      After a quick search, the Camp Nou pitch is 105×68 meters, which are the same dimensions as the pitches in the San Siro, Stadio Olimpico, Wembley, Old Trafford, the Emirates and the Santiago Bernabeu.

  26. Chiu
    September 12, 2011

    I cant find Pep press conference in Barca web for Milan match. Anyone have the link?

  27. barca96
    September 13, 2011

    Sorry for OT but was really busy travelling for the past few days.22 hours from Australia to Malaysia yeah and Singapore in between. So a lot of catching up to do so of course I am reading from the back.

    Kxevin’s post is funny as hell.
    Here are some excerpts that made me smile like a mad man in office while Im supposed to catch up on work after 2 weeks out of office.

    He slid it to Pedro, who tried some bit of ridiculousness that was easily stopped by the keeper

    Once they got that equalizer, you could see in their faces that they would do anything short of driving a bus onto the pitch and parking it in front of their goal to keep from giving up the point that they worked so hard for.

    Pedro windmilled ineffectively

    Alves outfights a Sociedad player to a ball on the end line and feeds a wide-open Pedro, who promptly tried to give someone in the stands a souvenir.

    I couldn’t watch the match as I was on the plane. And not planning to watch it but after reading those funny lines, I feel like I am going to download it.

  28. barca96
    September 13, 2011

    I was really busy since last week so hardly read any Barca news but why did Pep play with a Busi and Fontas pairing? Where is Pique & sMasch. God, I hate it that Busi is rotting at CB.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      September 13, 2011

      mm, Pique is injured and I think he wanted to give sMasch a rest for Milan clash..

      but yes, first of all, Busi and Fontas is a bad bad partner, just like Busi – Pique..

      and I don’t like this situation, we have one of the best DM in the world, but he kept playing in a CB position that he’s not really good at it.. if Pep insist to play him there, at least give him the right partner who can compliment each other with him.

    • Ryan
      September 13, 2011

      The pairing was fine when the team was playing as they should, it was after the 2 goals that everyone seemed uninterested and sloppy. Busi is even playing CB for Spain. :/

    • can_we_go_Xalvies
      September 13, 2011

      you have to also keep in mind that there has to be sufficient backup on the bench too, you can’t play all your CBs and not have back up. I also see the advantage of playing Fontas and Busi against a team like Sociedad who pressure high up and have a high line, Busi and Fontas are two of the best ball handling specialist in our squad and they can distribute the ball well under pressure. Mascherano and Abidal not so much

      Busi wasn’t playing that bad, mind you Xavi really had a tough time controlling the game in midfield and alongside the whole team collectively struggled.

  29. barca96
    September 13, 2011

    Another thing, I saw in the papers that the Manchester sides whooped their EPL counterparts once again and this after the dreaded international breaks. Now you tell me which league is weaker.

    Both Barca and EE had tough matches after the break while the EPL giants cruised as usual.

    Really silly!

  30. Olufestus
    September 13, 2011

    Well,as you all know,captain caveman is fit to play,even when he’s injured,just throw him that jersey..AND HE GETS WILD!!!

  31. September 13, 2011

    According to @stacy4june on Twitter, who cites the local Ghanian media, Boateng is out. Wow.

    Edit: now Boateng has tweeted that he’s preparing for the game… @KBPofficial

    • Sheena
      September 13, 2011

      Hot damn.

    • K_legit
      September 13, 2011

      Who’s @stacy4june?

  32. Neel
    September 13, 2011

    So who is playing for Milan then? its already turned into a dull affair for me…

    • barca96
      September 13, 2011

      Don’t underestimate them just yet. They are old but have a hell lot of experience.

  33. mani
    September 13, 2011

    Kxevin- I was reading the comments about someone wanting to attend a match but not finding two seats together.

    I’m in the same boat but instead would like to go to the Sevilla game on the 23rd. I’m assuming this is considered a ‘hot’ ticket? Worst case I’d go on my own and leave the s.o. at the hotel (she actually does not mind “BARCA ALWAYS WINS MANI WHY IS THAT SO INTERESTING???” heh 🙂 )

    You had said that seats free up right before the game. Would this happen for Sevilla? Also, would you recommend I buy my ticket online on the official website now (very few decent seats left) or wait it out to see if better seats open up? Or even buy my ticket on game day AT the stadium?

    • yana
      September 13, 2011

      I’m not Kxevin, but below is a reply from him from when I asked the same question last season:

      Seient Lliure is a crazy system. The way that it’s supposed to work is that season ticket holders (who rarely go to matches) would release their tickets, and then people could purchase them. But rare is the member that does that, because you never know, right? Something could happen that will make you suddenly want to go.

      And yes, you can trade tickets within the same section or price point if something better opens up, but in person. I have never seen a provision for doing that online. The other thing is that cules are flexible, so even if you find two seats that are close together, you can usually find someone willing to switch with you, as there are lots of other folks in the same boat.

      As for buying now or waiting being better, I would not know the answer…

  34. mani
    September 13, 2011

    I think Barca will have an easy time with Milan. The Serie A is pretty weakened IMHO. Inter looked like an entirely different unit against Palermo last week, and if anything, Inter has the “steel” to match up with Barca a bit better.

    Though Milan have several players capable of that one magic moment- given our midfield extremeo give them the ball 🙂

  35. September 13, 2011

    No.More.Injury.Period.

    Italian teams are tough in tackling, we all know it. With Van Bommel playing for them as well? I think it’s gonna be a high risk match.

    While I don’t think we will lose, we should at all cost try not to get injured, or it will cost us even more to get those 3 points. We already have a short squad and a couple of major injuries, we do not want to see anymore of this to happen, even if it means we will draw them.

    All the best to Alexis. Consult Abidal on how-to-recover-sooner-than-expected program. We will miss him dearly on the pitch. Villa is not anywhere near his athleticism, work rate, ball skills and speed. Hopefully, Pedro will get his scoring boots back in time so that we can compete in every single competition.

    We want to win it all again.

    • barca96
      September 13, 2011

      Van Bommel will have a field day 😆
      He will definitely get away easily as we’re having an EPL referee.
      COntinental ref’s are harsher. Somebody didn’t understand why Kari singled that out.

  36. Josep
    September 13, 2011

    GUYS HAVE YOU SEEN ANY OF THE NEW FEATURES OR FOOTAGE FOR FOOTBALL MANAGER 12 HOLY SHIT

    • blitzen
      September 13, 2011

      NO AND I DON’T CARE TO EITHER! 😛

  37. ooga aga
    September 13, 2011

    did anyone see the roma match at the wknd? apparently bojan started but was subbed off in the 60th cos he didnt do too well. oh and jose angel got a red card and roma lost 1-2.

  38. September 13, 2011

    Liveblog has started. Hope it loads for you guys

  39. Eklavya
    September 13, 2011

    Yay, great result!!!

  40. September 13, 2011

    Put up another post for you guys to talk in. Other thread isn’t working for some reason.

  41. Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
    September 13, 2011

    Maybe I’m just jumping the gun but this team reminds me of the 06/07 one and we all know how that ended. It’s time to start preparing yourself for the end of an era because if it isn’t this season it will be very soon. I just hope it doesn’t start before Mourinho leaves.

    Also, I think it might be my stream but that sounded like a pretty lousy atmosphere for a big European game. It seems to have gotten worse after Rosell (as if the atmosphere wasn’t bad enough during laporta..)

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