AC Milan – FC Barcelona Liveblog

This match should need no introduction. We are playing for top spot in the group today.


Starting XI:

Valdes Puyol Mascherano Abidal Busquets Keita Xavi Thiago Fabregas Messi Villa

Bench: Pinto, Pique, Fontas,  Maxwell, do Santos, Pedro, Sanchez


2:45 PM EST. Don’t be late.


  1. Please let this team be a 3-4-3 or a 3-3-2-2 or a 3-4-2-1, and not a 4 man backline including Busquets. 😉

    1. That group got pretty interesting. Chelsea-Valencia will be one to watch, it’s basically a knockout tie now. Valencia need a draw that isn’t 0-0 to eliminate Chelsea.

  2. Loved Messi playing the Xavi role and Xavi being Messi for that last goal. Also, how crappy was that pitch?

  3. I missed the last 35 minutes. Was the pace as heart-stopping as the 1st half? Was our defense more composed or solid substitutions? That 1st half was one for the ages!

    Xavi scoring goals!…who could ask for anything more.

  4. Why are Milan fans saying we got help from the ref. If anything he kept things fair by not showing a red.

    1. Well, they have to cling to something, no? Had the perfect opportunity to beat us and screwed the pooch. I wouldn’t pay much attention.

  5. wow that was intense. still not sure how to respond to the game. so fast; so many holes and yea no idea why we only switch back to 4-3-3 at the END of hard matches..

    anyway found this during halftime,
    this is huge, Filippo Ricci talking about a text message messi sent pep after a game two seasons ago in which messi felt so down that he wrote: “i dont think i’m good enough for this team, maybe its time to go somewhere else”
    prompting pep to switch to the false nine system that worked so well for our atomic flea and maybe causing ibra to stop talking about ibra for a min…

    i have no idea why pep insists on the 3-4-3 against teams that can damage us with counters but i’m sure whatever info he was looking for will make the team stronger

    topped the group 🙂 and can now use last match as needed (time for bench players, experiment formation, ect)

    so soft pk, xavi/own goal, missed chances, terrible defense, prob a pique prank gone awry (=bench)… we won, away!! great game thanks to everyone in the the liveblog it seems pep listened in, he switched formation and played alexis right

    1. yea i have no idea what to make of it; i haven’t been able to find anything witten about it; i would think it is a pretty big story even independent of how it is used in the video (in reference to the position change)

      i think it is one of those stories that so much can be written about, (modern) players mental/emotional fragility, ibra, pep, messi, so yea would have expected much more about it…so i am a bit skeptical too;

      true/exaggerated/false, either way it is interesting. i’ll see if i can find any more

    2. I’ve heard a similar story but not exactly. The story I heard was that he was at the back of the bus and was upset and texted him saying “I’m sucking right now and not helping the team, maybe it’s better if I don’t play” rather than asking for a transfer.

  6. btw how crazy was that Thiago move and pass to Cesc?

    Prince’s goal was pretty awesome too!

    And Messi playing the Xavi role my white butt, that pass was a classical Messi assist! 🙂

  7. Did anyone notice that right after Xavi/Van Bommel scored the first goal, Thiago turned and pointed at the bench with his two index fingers. Sorta like “Yay! My pressing rocks!” it was funny.

  8. I beg you, Pep Guardiola.
    use 4 natural defenders against EE.

    just go with 4-3-3.
    Alves – Pique/sMasch – Puyol/sMasch – Abidal if they all available.
    my heart can’t take another game like that, especially against EE.

    1. I’m loving it. I know it sounds weired but I love the excitement it brings. I’ve long since accepted that Pep is adamant on trying to make it work so… I don’t think he’ll persist with it in the second half of the season when it gets really tough. This season i think the team are just trying new things. My favourite momemt this season is when i’m waiting for the starting line-up and thinking what rollercoaster awaits me.

  9. I don’t know if Barça would still win if they use this line up :

    Villa – Messi – Alexis
    Xavi – Busquets/Keita – Thiago/Cesc
    Abidal – Pique – Puyol – Mascherano (or Puyol?)

    but I’m quite sure the backline would be more stable and organized.

  10. Should be added: had Iniesta/Alves been available 3-4-3 probably doesn’t happen.

    Think this was a good time to test out 3-4-3 against a big club that’s not EE. Not a must-win game (though it was for Milan) and key players out. Milan intensity put them under pressure.

    Good for Pep to see the failures early then in the second leg against, say, Madrid.

    1. Amazing match. Thanks that Milan came out to play against us and didn’t sit deep. Agree with Kari, it’s test us and good to see that we made mistakes and concede goals as well. Let Pep be ready and have time to rectify when “must win” games coming in the 2nd half of the season (CL knock out, crucial liga games, classico).

      This game could keep our feet on the ground, knowing that not all teams will park the bus and we can own every opponent. From the neutral perspective and considering the quality of the opposition, this is the best match for Barca this season so far.

  11. Oh, some Guardiola quotes:

    on Pique no-show: “We look at the opponents accordingly and decide who to play. I cannot justify every substitution.”

    on Thiago: “He is the bravest player I have on this team. It doesn’t matter if Thiago plays in a stadium with a small crowd or a [full] stadium like this one [San Siro]. He is strong, brave, with a boldness that comes in handy.”

    (Thiago was full-on beast today).

  12. good postgame quote from masch

    “Si hay algo que tiene este equipo es atrevimiento, los riesgos son parte de la historia de este Club.”

    “If there is something that this team has it is bravery (daring), the risks are part of the history of this Club.”

  13. This game was interesting. In my opinion, this was the right game to re-test the 3-4-3 because the team is already qualified and if they were to lose, they would just have to play a first place team from another group except Spanish teams. Looking at current standings, I don’t think it will make that much of a difference playing the 2nd leg away from home.

    On the other hand, I agree that 3-4-3 should kindly die. It’s not going to work with our slow defenders. Please Pep (he reads this blog:)),stick with one formation and one set of players like last year, so the team can gel as we’re entering the most crucial phase of the season. I really miss last year’s somewhat predictable line-up 🙁
    Also, do you get a sense that Pep is still trying to figure out how to best use Cesc? If the formation is 4-3-3, what would be Cesc’s role?

    I’m concerned about Villa; he looks unhappy, and if he’s not performing, Pep should drop him but then his confidence will be shattered even more. It’s almost like a vicious cycle…sigh! Lastly, I really hate the Club World Cup competition. The team will be exhausted when they come back. Too many games with such a small squad. Does the club get paid? Can they forfeit this competition? Or maybe send the B-team?

    OT: Current Ch. League Standings: 1st place teams are a) Bayern, b) Inter, c)Benfica, d)RM, e)Leverkusen, f) Arsenal, g) Apoel, h) Barca. 2nd place teams are a)Napoli (or City), b)Trabzonspor (or Lille), c) United (or Basel), d)Ajax, e) Chelsea (or Valencia), f) Marseille, g) Zenit, h) Milan. In terms of qualities, it seems to me that most 1st and 2nd place teams are on equal levels.
    Arsenal are doing quiet well; the first English team to qualify 🙂 Maybe the EPL is not the best league in the world after all.

  14. He describes himself to a tee
    “I pass and I move, I help you, I look for you, I stop, I raise my head, I look and, above all, I open up the pitch…The one who has the ball, is the master of the game…That’s the school of Joan Vilà, of Albert Benaiges, of Johan Cruijff, of Pep Guardiola”

    I know its an old one but God I am such a fanboy when it comes to Xavi!

  15. looks like, depending on results, we could possibly face man city, man united or chelsea in the octavos…those are some good teams as potential second place finishers. cant wait to get the beatings of the EPL started.

    the only teams that have definitely qualified, from what i can tell, are bayern munich, inter, madrid, arsenal and barca as first place, and milan as second place. benfica, bayer leverkusen and apoel nicosia have also clinced spots in the octavos but still unknown if they will finish first or second in their groups. the other 7 qualifying teams are still unknown.

  16. Great game. Great win. Great flea, Great Xavi. Great team.

    Not great for my nerves, though. Please, Pep, only play the 3-4-3 against weaker teams.

    Now away to Burger King.

    1. Um, yeah. Sid Lowe was asking on twitter earlier about how many black (spanish: negro) players had played for the Spanish NT. He mentioned Thiago. I replied that Thiago would more likely identify himself as moreno or pardo rather than negro*, and he should really avoid trying to pigeonhole Spanish NT players into racial categories they may not accept themselves.

      I understand the point he is making about Ramalho and his debut for Bilbao, but I am uncomfortable with his imposition of his definition of “black” on players regardless of how they may self-identify, just so he can write the story he wants. I find Sid very often ignores relevant pieces of information in his quest to write a pretty story.

      *Race and identity in Brazil is a very complicated issue. For a brief introduction, check out this article:

    2. Wow. Thanks for the link, Blitzen. Very informative… as an American (and someone who is mixed race [chinese/turkish]) it made me jealous of Brazil (in the area of issues of ‘race/ethnicity’).

    3. My bad, meant to say ‘as a US Citizen’, not ‘American’.
      Technically people from Mexico are as American as someone from the States. And Brazil. And Canada. And Argentina. And Chile. And, and asdjkfhasdgadfhga

    4. Well, I obviously can’t say how Thiago views himself, but yeah, he’s definitely not considered black by Brazilian standards.
      (Brazilian here, btw.)

  17. Anyone else find it annoying how left footed keita is? I mean he constantly adjusts his entire body and takes multiple touches just so he can pass with his left.

    Not hating, he was a great physical presence in this match but he slows down crucial ball circulation through midfield. Grow a right foot damn it!!!!!

    1. I think one of the reasons Pep likes Keita so much is because he is precisely left footed..I read this somewhere

  18. I have just heard, that Montoya didn’t travel with the team because of tough negotiations for his renewal. Alledgedly, Pep was going to make him start, but some dirigential person told him to not take him as a measure of force for the negotiations. I don’t know if it’s true, (it doesn’t seems so, because we all know that Pep decides who will play always) but the spanish (Argentinian) commentator of fox sports, said that.

    1. Pep was going to make Montoya start who hasn’t even played a minute in La Liga? I don’t really buy that. I would be happy if he started but I really doubt it. Cuenca didn’t even get minutes.

  19. ah,thiago,everybody including me ,praised him for his defensive discipline and work rate in previous this game he was great as an attacking option,but defensively he was ill disciplined,puyi was always left alone in 1 v 1 situations,which cost us the first goal,the 2nd goal the player crossed without facing any kind of pressure.

    busi was redundant today,had no impact at all in this game.

    what a goal by boa and what an assist from messi.

    enjoyed the game but if we played like this against EE i cant take it anymore.

    pep,please stop experimenting

    1. It took me more than an hour to fall asleep after the game.
      I’m not confident that we can make it this year.

      We just can’t keep the ball as good anymore when playing vs. teams that pressure and Milan is not even close to EE. Even Xavi had a hard time passing and keeping the ball.

      Pressure is also history.

    2. I’m worried too. We were slicing their defense open and creating chances at will in this game and if we had converted the sitters we missed (Villa, Fabregas and Messi in the first half alone all missed chances they were obliged to convert) game would have been over and it would have been another thrashing. We didn’t and it is not the first time this season that it happens but if we had it would have masked the fact that when we were 1 goal up it one never had the feeling that the game was under control. Which is a reason to be worried – the games at the Bernabeu in the spring were tight affairs in terms of scoring but you had the feeling that we’re in control all the time because we had the ball and it was not obvious how they were going to get it back; that’s not the case now 🙁

      Hopefully it is all because of the 3-4-3 and the missing players and we will be back to normal come December 10th….

    3. Was that Thiago’s fault or the fact that Busquets didn’t drop back quickly enough? Also Puyol was off his game I thought, he’s not an RB and def not Alves, I felt he was being very ballsy in pushing so far up, he’s not quick in returning.

    4. Yeah I was surprised that Puyol kept on pushing so high up the pitch and he was hella slow in getting back into position.

      I dont understand why Pep didn’t play sMasch at RB instead. He played there this season or last. Can’t really recall.

      No Kxevin review? Usually it’s Euler who writes the reviews for the Cup games right?

    5. I’m hoping for a Euler review, cool some heads. But really I’m not worried about EE, they haven’t faced a team that really pressured them and that had any talent up front R. Sociedad gave them a hell of a fight because they pressured and marked and pushed, they lost by a silly mistake early on and when they did have chances you notice the lack of talent in finishing, Levante did the same thing, EE tired in about 60 minutes (usual for them) and Levante won, Valencia tried to win a match in 30 minutes, sat on their heels the whole game and only pushed towards the end, but EE was under pressure gave up 2 goals. I do not give them credit for Lyon or Dynamo Zagreb, or Osasuna.

    6. Our pressing has been nothing to shout about in recent times so that is one of the 3 reasons why I’m worried.

    7. fair point.

      my only worry against EE is Pep will go with 3-4-3.
      3 defenders vs Dive Maria-Benzema/Higuain-TB *cringe*

  20. Pep on the three man defense, Busquets, and Thiago’s sexy ass:

    Tras admitir que en la primera parte su equipo jugó muy bien, “y en la segunda competimos muy bien, que no es lo mismo”, al catalán le preguntaron si hubiera sido tan valiente de jugar con tres defensas en el caso de que el partido fuera decisivo: “Miedo tengo poco a la hora de tomar las decisiones; cuando no era nadie puse a Pedro y Busquets, porque creía en ellos, y había posibilidades de que no me comiera el panettone en Navidad”. “Asumimos un riesgo porque de esta manera tendríamos más juego y control. Pierdes en una cosa y ganas en otra. Para jugar con tres debes llevar el control del partido, si no es complicado”, reconoció. “El mister lo valoró con acierto y hemos jugado muy bien. Ha sido vistoso para el espectador, pero no sé si a los entrenadores les habrá gustado tanto”, valoró Xavi, que como hizo Guardiola, elogió a Busquets por ser capaz de elegir cuándo meterse entre los centrales o dar un paso adelante. “Una decisión que no es fácil”, dijo el entrenador del Barcelona. “Se ha juntado sin la pelota, pero sin perder esencia. Su posición era muy complicada: cuando Boateng juega por dentro no tienes que meterte, pero si sale, sí; y lo ha hecho perfecto”. “Busi tácticamente es perfecto”, añadió Puyol, que se las vio con Ibrahimovic y sufrió. “Han abierto mucho el campo y si llegábamos tarde a banda sufríamos. Con Busquets más de central hemos controlado mejor”, insistió el capitán.

    También habló Guardiola de Thiago; y aseguró que se sacrificó mucho como extremo para permitir que Messi se despegara de Zambrotta. “Se quiere tanto, se siente tan grande, guapo, fuerte, que es atrevido y le da igual donde juega. Pero es disciplinado, tiene ductilidad, y eso solo lo consigues con mucha autoestima y mucha generosidad”.

    1. did Pep really meant it when he said we play well?

      okay, Barça won, and the game was a great display of football.

      but that was not a convincing win, I’m worry Pep will go with 3-4-3 against EE or other big teams. #facepalm

    2. He said something like, “we played well in the first half, we competed well in the second, which isn’t the same thing.”

      Do you really think that had Dani and Iniesta been available for Pep he’d have “experimented?” Not a bad plan b (or c?) if you ask me.

    3. I don’t know.. if Dani was available, Pep probably put Dani – Masch/Puyol – Abidal there, still with 3 defenders, who knows?

      lol, it’s Pep we’re talking about..

    4. I think he might have but only if Dani or even Adriano (if he was available) was a part of the front three. I think other that confusing us by playing 3-4-3 every once in a while he also confuses coaches of other teams in the way they prepare their games against us. Yet I don’t think we’ll play this system against EE with they way they use their flanks. It already cost us against Valencia.

    5. That phrase “Little fear do I have in making decisions, when I was nobody I put Pedro and Busquets, because I believed in them, and there were a lot of possibilities that I was not going to eat the panettone in Navidad”. That is a pretty well known phrase in Italy, that explains when a coach is not gonna last until christmas, to eat that christmassy dessert called panettone (in Italy) or Panetón (in Perú). He’s right, he has a lot of courage in his way of playing and trust in his players. I enjoyed today’s game, but I still prefer a manita anytime. Im not that worried about the defense, considering we were missing Pique and Alves, do you remembered how Dani owned Cristiano on the last 2 clasicos? I still believe we need Villa, Sanchez and Pedro to regain their form. Our problem in my view, relies there, not in the defense. I hope for Kxevin or Euler to explain everything, and calm us down.

    6. I hope for Kxevin or Euler to explain everything, and calm us down.

      Euler didn’t calm me down during the match.
      he made me nervous, lol. because he spoke the truth, that Barça had serious problem defensively.

      hopefully in his review he has something to calm us down 😉

  21. After reading all the negative comments about 3-4-3 on this board, I’m still not convinced that it is a bad thing.So let me play the devil’s advocate on this one.I’l try to list some positives on this new tactic of Pep.

    * Motivation – I think our players have really been frustrated by bus parking tactics for the last 3 years.Players like Xavi have come out criticising anti-football due to this.At least this formation doesn’t suck the life out of a football match.This must have a morale boosting effect on Barca players who just love football and want to play it in its purest form.

    * Tactical Variations – Everyone knows Pep has always wanted to keep opponents guessing on how his team will set up.I guess he has achieved this on an ultimate level,often leaving even tactical experts clueless 🙂

    * Excess of ‘quality’ midfielders in the squad – Watching the last game made me think that Pep is trying this new tactic not to incorporate Cesc into the team, but instead for Thiago to get more minutes.I have not been so excited looking forward to a player’s growth since Messi.

    * History – As few have pointed out, Barca lost a championship last time it tried 3-4-3.Maybe Pep thinks its time to rectify that mistake.Because one thing is certain.This team is not similar to Rijkaard’s.It has something extra.Everyone sees that fire in the player’s eyes.

    So thinking about all this makes me think that maybe Pep will play 3 at the back in some big games (one of the clasicos).Theoretically,it might work against Mourinho’s anti-football formation of pushing Pepe in midfield.But as many have pointed out,its a gamble.At least we will see a lot less bus parking this season.

    Anyway, here are the first words of Pep to the Camp Nou:

    “Fasten your seatbelts” 😀

    1. I agree that 3-4-3 also has its own positives.
      still, I perefer 4-3-3 in big games.

      but what do I know, I’m not the coach of the best team in the world.

      I’m just gonna fasten my seatbelts and (hopefully) enjoy the flight. 😀

    2. Good to have you back Zain.
      Always love reading your comments.
      TOo bad they’re a rare piece.

      I do think that extra man in midfield will work vs. Pepe & Madrid.
      However, they have to make sure to keep the ball as long as possible.

  22. Barcelona have offered Wolfsburg to pay Hleb’s full salary and to drop the 0.1M-per-game clause if they extend the loan after January. [waz]

    Please just keep him!!!! We’ll even throw in Carmona or Armando for free!

  23. The formation experimentation isn’t what is bothering me, directly. I think it may actually be very positive in certain situations and while it seems it is being forced more by injury and suspension issues, I’m not convinced that is the main reason. What does concern me about this is that we can’t seem to get the right combination of players in the 3-4-3 to make it feel solid, maybe that will work it self out. Something about it was very attractive back in the Villareal match.

    What bothers me more is something more intangible that I can’t necessarily pinpoint, but I feel like we’re not as happy or something. We don’t seem quite as unified to me. Villa looks cooked, Abidal not himself at all (don’t know if it is physical health, life changing attitude due to the illness, or the contract stuff or what… but something), Cesc hasn’t been right since coming back from the last injury… There seems to be a discordance of some kind. Something not quite in harmony. The play looks strained, maybe it’s just the daring and risk taking of new formations and players in fish out of water positions, but there is a little something going on. While the formation experimentation seems ok, it seems different than our approach last year where the system trumped and players were asked to adapt within it when pieces were missing. This year it seems we are adapting the system to accommodate players and that I think could subtly promote more selfishness and less team above any one individual… Just thinking out loud, but the players over system thing struck me recently and I’m wondering what that might be doing to morale, competition within the squad, etc.

    1. I think it’s direct consequences from playing 3-4-3 that our defence looked shaky esp when milan utilise the width. In the first half, we hv some excellect chances (Cesc shot and Messi hit crossbar) that could kill off the match. Our midfield boss the game and more variety on attack. We just still not reach the balance between attack and defense with 3-4-3. Pep must be thinking of some tactical innovation by keep experimenting like this, even in the big match.

    2. Agree, it’s clear he is in seek and find mode. There is a vision of something specific he is trying to get to. I am still just wondering about the team. I’ve mentioned before how winning can put similar levels but different types of strain on a squad. I feel like we need to find a default mode of operating that we can rotate players against. It seems a little like we’re not sure how to get what we want, so the squad is going through permutations that make difficult to know where they fit and what their role is, and too many of those kinds of degrees of freedom and uncertainty can be unsettling. Last year we had an ideal framework, we subbed within it with those most suitable or adaptable at any given time. That kind of backbone or template to play off of seems to be missing a bit. It’s like jazz improvisation, sometimes sounds random, but there is an underlying structure that is being played off. you could argue that is our “style” of play, but that doesn’t seem to be settling things on its own.

      On this squad stuff, I was thinking that Puyol looked a bit more himself in play, although opinions on that have differed, but I think he doesn’t look as a commanding and in charge a presence. Not saying it’s the case, but he looks like someone playing with shaken confidence or something… Maybe the position?, maybe still finding post surgery form? But these things all seem to be adding up, and I can’t decide whether they are bringing something on the pitch with them that is causing the uncertainty or if it happens because of the formation, etc. after they get out there.

    3. Undoubtedly, this season we can’t notice the backbone line-up that Pep want. Either because of injury or experiment/trial time to put up abundant quality midfielder compare to last season (addition of Cesc and Thiago). I’m also wondering the concern that our players will difficult to adapt those permutations. The potential of each player in their best position can’t be maximized, they could got strained.

      But on positive note, perhaps the players are content with the experiment. They find the enthusiasm again after 3 years of glory under Pep. Possibly besides experimenting, Pep instills the motivation attempt with those tactical variations. Just wish the whole thing that Pep trying now will be fruitful (silverware) at the end of the season. With those rotations, at least our players can be constantly fresh (except Messi) till the last day because of decent rest that Pep allocate throughout.

  24. I just think our biggest problem in the last game was the lack of players on the left when we play, against Milan it was just Villa on the left, no midfielder in support and Abidal stayed very far back. I don’t know if this was for tactical issues such as Puyol playing RB and no iniesta on the field. Villa contributes so well in defence, pressing and drawing out wide. But when he has possession of the ball his very existence on the field becomes pointless because there is nothing for him to play off other then having himself play like a winger which he is nowhere near capable of doing. I’m not saying Villa is a bad player, but I think Pep just has to keep sacrificing that left side constantly and deprive them of the ball or any support.

    First it was Alves, Xavi and Messi that dominate the right side of our attack, now lets add Thiago, Cuenca, Sanchez and Cesc to the mix to and we now have too many options for the right and none on the left. and what would Pep prefer to utilize? simple answer, always the right.

  25. Just a detail about the penalty: Abate first hit Xavi’s ankle (before pulling him back with his arm). That was the foul that let Xavi stamble.

  26. Question unrelated to the game, hope someone can help me out here:
    I’ve been playing soccer with some friends on a weekly basis for the past 2 months, and it’s getting cold so we’re probably going to switch to futsal full-time. We have trouble securing a wood-floored basketball court but tarmac is readily available.

    I have a futsal ball which is pretty decent, and some cheap soccer balls (which are easily available). Do you guys think the surface is a big deal in choosing which ball(s) to use on the tarmac? I feel like since it’s uneven and has more friction than the wood court, maybe it’d be best to use the soccer ball instead of the futsal ball (as a point of fairness/interest, we usually play soccer on terrible, terrible uneven and poorly kept pitches).

    Thanks for any advice/feedback/thoughts, and happy Thanksgiving to everyone who celebrates!

    1. Hi Xing.

      Football for indoors are heavier and are not so bouncy.
      And they are smaller in size.

      Personally, I prefer outdoor size 5 balls.
      Easier to do fancy stuff imo.
      Indoor balls are heavier and stays on the ground more.

      Indoor tarmac? I’ve never seen that but when I was in Holland, we used normal balls for street footballs, not futsal balls.

    2. Thanks for the feedback!

      Also the futsal ball I have (I got one at size 4 as that seemed the international standard) is more expensive than both of my soccer balls put together, so I’d rather save it for nicer surfaces (indoor basketball court seeming like a much nicer choice than the other indoor courts [which offer worse friction]).

  27. MD: “Fernandez Borbalan will referee el classico on 10th” Anyone know about this guy and its stats with barca?

    Btw boateng was Milan best player last night. And that goal was awesome composure

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