Milan, Tactical Improvements, and the Vision of Pep Guardiola


Now that I have your attention: if you wish to participate in the BFB book giveaway, please post your predictions on the previous thread/post and NOT this one. We would like all predictions to be on the same thread. Thank you.)

Aww, yeah!

It would be unfair to skip Mallroca game and go straight to the Milan one, so some thoughts:

– Yay! Three points!

– Wonderful game from Barca under a lot of pressure. Every game is essentially a final and we were left back-less against a team who got 78% of their wins at home.

– Pique says hello to all his critics. For what it’s worth I think some misgivings were justified — his lapses in concentration and judgment could have been very costly for us in the past — but most were hyperbolic IMO. And I’m not saying this in hindsight, mind you. Absolutely crucial goal at a time where he really needed to step up his game, like champions do. Keep up the good form, Geri!

– Busi.

– That pitch was a cabbage field. Players slipping and sliding like Bambi on Ice. Poor Iniesta miscontrolled more footballs this game than in his entire career, I bet.

-That said, Andres and Messi never hide do they? Thiago sent off and both demand the ball, try to make things work under pressure. Love it.

– Mascherano.

– I’ve done Mallorca a bit of a disservice. As most games featuring Mallorca were tight, one goal games, I had expected a bit of a dirty game from them with overtly defensive tactics. I admit it. But they had some real flair going forward with nice interplay between forwards. Their transition offensive was particularly impressive. Luckily for us, their end product left much to be desired. I’d say that’s the reason why they’ve scored so little goals – their finishing, not for the lack of trying.

Onto Milan

So I was rewatching the November Milan game at the San Siro (that’s what I do on my Sunday afternoons) and I originally wanted to tweet my thoughts about it, but it would have been far too long for 140 characters and flood everyone’s timelines so I’ve decided to put into a post.

I don’t consider myself a tactics buff, though I certainly enjoy reading such posts. In fact, it sort of scares me as there’s so much I don’t know, understand, or see. The below turned out much more tactics heavy than I originally had in mind, so if there are any mistakes I’d love it if you let me know.

Getting to it

It’s been awhile so I’ll give you some context coming into the Milan match:

– We still had Villa.
– We didn’t have Iniesta due to a hamstring injury.
– Alves was suspended due to accumulation of yellow cards.
– Adriano was injured. The sky was blue.
– Alexis was coming back from the injury he suffered against Sociedad.
– Barca only needed a draw to advance.

Naturally, the formation we used was heavily influenced by the above. It should be noted that Pep and the team were still experimenting with and re-introducing the 3-4-3. [Interestingly enough, it was also the match before that loss against Getafe.]

Our lineup was a 3-4-3 at the beginning of the game: VV – Puyol – Mascherano – Abidal; Busi, Keita, Xavi, Thiago; Cesc, Messi, Villa.

Something like this

Cesc was at false 9 while Messi was moved to the right and Villa was on his usual left wing.

As you remember, the result of this was very much mixed. Offensively, we could have scored at least three goals in the first half alone; there were a lot of chances created – so no problems there. The main issue was defensively where the team struggled to space itself properly on the pitch. The starting eleven included a lot of players who were used to playing in the centre (or middle) of the pitch.

Watching this match, it was very clear how much trouble Barca has when Alves isn’t on the pitch, or, worded another way, how much Alves brings to the team. Cuenca wasn’t promoted at this point; as noted earlier Iniesta was injured; Alexis and Pedro were both just returning from injury and started on the bench. (Full bench by the way: Pinto, Pique, Maxwell, Fontas, JDS, Pedro, Alexis). This meant we had no player to play off the right wing to spread the pitch and create additional width. In the end Messi was stationed there, like he used to be during the 08-09 season and the seasons prior.

Now Messi will create danger no matter where you put him – he’s that good. However as he is developing now, putting Messi on the right flank (on the wing in general) hampers his ability to influence the game (vs. playing him closer to the middle). Specifically against Milan, because so many central players played in the starting XI, play went through the middle for the majority of the game, especially in the first half. Messi, seeing this, pinched in centrally.

This left Barca without a man on the right flank (defensively or offensively) outside Puyol, consequentially giving Milan a lot of space to attack from and virtually no threat to defend against. Big problem.

For much of the first half and a good chunk of the second, what ended up happening was Villa was doing his job and staying wide on the left but that effectively took him out of the game, as Messi and Cesc pinched in and were playing through the middle like the rest of the team. And because there was such an overload in the middle, Busi in particular was unable to contribute much.

What should have been something like the formation above ended up being something like this:

Barca Clustered in the Middle

And that spacing issue was what lead to Milan’s first goal. Seedorf took advantage of the space on right that had Puyol having to to defend both Seedorf and the significant space in front of him.

Image Courtesy of Euler

Ibra intelligently got between Puyol and Mascherano to score.

Image Courtesy of Euler

So why are you being such a Debbie Downer? What the fudge?

The great news is the above has largely worked itself out. Barca has learned to space themselves on the pitch significantly better. That’s the whole point of this post. It was so surprising to see the contrast between this game and the game we played yesterday.

Not only is our form better but with the way we play 3-4-3 now, the defensive system issue that we had against Milan — slow transition from offense to defense when we lose the ball (aka transitional defense) — is minimized as we’ve learned to space ourselves out better. This is not to say we’ll suddenly score a manita against Milan on Wednesday or anything along those lines; I’m merely pointing out the massive improvements the squad has made over the course of the season.

And while a lot of it is down to the incredible players we have, just as much is down to Pep Guardiola.

In a lot of ways, you can see the vision that Pep has. When Mascherano played right back against Valencia, to many it was a move that made no sense. Why experiment a DM-cum-CB at right back in such an important fixture? It had me baffled at the time as well.

But now as the season has gone on, it has become clearer – in a 3-4-3 there needs to be a player that plays at right side of the three man defense. As it is, only two players have that ability in the current Barca side: Alves and Puyol. While the former is ultra reliable in terms of fitness and form, the latter has sadly become more injury prone in the last season and a half. Fittingly enough, the same can be said for the left backs of the team [former being Abidal, latter being Adriano].

The complex part comes here: with the unfortunate situation with his liver, Abidal is out for the season (and possibly for duration of his career). This is, of course, incredibly saddening from a human perspective but it’s also a big blow tactically. Abi is most likely the most important defender tactically for Barca with his ability to play both LB and LCB (incredibly rare in itself, rarer still to find real quality).

The good thing for Barca is that Adriano is still there as a back up and a fantastic player to have but he is of course injury prone. Still in the Barca squad, Puyol can play LB as can Fontas.

Though injuries are hard to predict it is probable that Pep had thought at the beginning of the season: In a situation where we need Puyol to play on the left side of a three man defense, who will be able on the right? Mascherano indeed has the intelligence, positional sense, and skill to play there — but he needs to be played there and have the time to gain experience and adjust against quality opposition.

And there lies the beauty of this Barca team: The talent of Mascherano is such that he doesn’t need a large sample of games to get a hold of it – the greatness of Pep is that he can see the potential and have the gumption to do it.

Adjustments and Improvements.

You can see Pep learning from his experiments, how he makes his adjustments to the issues that arise from those experiments. That is the most underrated part of Pep for me (putting aside how underrated he is in general). He does things so he can learn from them. If something fails, he doesn’t just ditch the idea – no, it’s revisited, analyzed, and adjusted so it can work next time. Masche didn’t excel at right back, but he returns as a more capable defender on the right side of a three man defense.

Team in La Liga and Europe have constantly been adjusting themselves to better compete against Barca. That’s to be expected. Pep’s main test was to readjust – to keep the gap between us and everyone else. Because if you stand still while you’re ahead, others will catch up and pass you eventually.

As aptly noted by Euler on Twitter, Pep starts with a initial idea that becomes more refined as the season goes on. This is true for both formations (which have become more flexible) and player positions (which become more refined). For example, Cesc’s best position isn’t at false 9. That was obvious against Milan in the November game. But it was important to play him there so that becomes clear and adjust his position on the team accordingly. As you experiment and adjust and readjust players in different positions, you’re left with a significant improved draft, or in some cases, a finished product.

A big problem with a 3-4-3 is there is no spare defender, which a 4-3-3 obviously has, and that leads to problems. By experimenting with multiple formations early on in the season, Barca is now able to seamlessly shift between them over a coarse of a single match without a substitution. Which is remarkable. (Something they had trouble with early on in the season). It’s especially impressive to note they’ve been able to limit the effect of the trade offs that come with those formation changes. Against Mallorca there were two formations the team changed between that I saw: 3-4-3 and 4-3-3. Busi operated as another CB or a sweeper in front of the defense depending on the situation.

On a similar note, to me, Pep’s tactics are as flexible as his players. It’s why he’s constantly searching for players that can play multiple positions, rather than just sign a single player for a specific position. If you sign flexible, intelligent players, it makes it easier to readjust. Different formations and positions can be introduced and those players can adapt to those formation changes. It was for these reasons that Cesc and Alexis were signed – they’re not just great in one position, but good in many. (This principal has its own trade offs of course; we’re feeling the effects of one this season).

And inside the squad, though the season is not over, it’s particularly important to note how much Keita has improved in the DM position. It was said earlier in the season that Keita being able to play DM and play it well would have a significant impact on our season. For one, it would allowed Busi to gain time and experience at CB. He’s stepped up and done it. Hats off, Keiteee!

Other Talking Points:

– I only highlighted one issue we had against Milan. Fatigue was a large issue then as well, one that we still have now.

-Lack of pace at the back might also be a problem on Wednesday too. It’s extremely likely we’ll see Puyol at LB, though how flexible and improved the team is, it doesn’t really seem to bother me as much as it probably should.

Alexis in particular will have a large impact on Wednesday’s game. When he came on, he caused Milan fits. And that was when he was just coming back from his Sociedad injury.

– Milangate Part 2: it’s been noted many times but the team won’t be able to return to Barcelona until Friday because of a general strike in Spain. At least there’s no volcano and it’s after the game this time.

-On a youth team note: 16-year old Jean Marie Dongou scored his first –and the winning — goal for Barca B yesterday. Remember that name.

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Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic


  1. swamidigital
    March 26, 2012

    Great post! You are spot on about your comments in regards to that earlier match. I never knew you were so insightful tactically, but I look forward to reading more from you!

    • March 26, 2012

      Actually what I said about the Milan game isn’t anything new. I forgot to include a link to Euler’s review of that match (/facepalm) who is the one who really provided (and provides ) the insight. I’ll include the link as soon as I find time but I highly recommend reading that post for an in-depth tactical analysis.

      The above is really just a summary to remind people what happened in the game.

  2. mikky
    March 26, 2012

    nice read. is my first time here and would lyk to congratulate you on a great blog you have here. i have been reading tke blog for over a year and just thought it worthwhile to comment. ayekoo!

  3. Jafri
    March 26, 2012

    Milan have powerful players, talented forwards, and an aging, largely static team.

    They have three at the front so we should have four at the back.

    I’d like one of the back four to be Busquets so that we can have Keita at DM to counter the physicality, and so he can come out and play in midfield and morph the 4-3-3 into a 3-4-3 if need be.

    We need to choke their midfield so that they can’t pass ahead to their forwards – I don’t think they’ll be making a lot of box to box runs.

    Cuenca on one side to stretch the play, Alexis on the other.

    So VV

    How does that sound?

    • nzm
      March 26, 2012

      I would still out Busquets in the middle of the field where he is more effective. While he’s improving, the backline still isn’t Busquets’ forte, and against a strong 3 man Milan attack, we need dedicated defenders at the back. Masch has been quicker to adapt into that role than Busquets has, and we need Pique’s height in defence for the Milan corners. Aerially, Busquets cannot control the ball.

      I’d like to think that we’ll start with a 4 man backline and, when the time is right, morph into a 3 man with Alves going forward.

      My pick would be:
      Alves – Pique – Mascherano – Puyol
      Xavi – Busquets – Iniesta
      Alexis – Messi – Cesc

      Keita for Xavi
      Tello for Cesc
      Cuenca for Alexis

      I’m still wary of using Thiago – he has flair but he loses too many balls which lead to fast counter-attacks by the opposition. We already have Messi doing this at times and don’t need two on the pitch doing it!

  4. nzm
    March 26, 2012

    Nice summary, Kari.

    I’ve also noticed that about Mallorca – they play really well but their finishing is not there. Malaga was the same until recently, and Bilbao is also guilty of this. But then, isn’t Barca guilty of this – especially in the first part of this season? 🙂

    With Mallorca, Bilbao and Malaga all with new coaches, I’m looking forward to seeing how much better these teams will be over the next few weeks and into next season, as the coaches and players gel.

    • endico
      March 26, 2012

      I don’t understand what you meant by this comment “With Mallorca, Bilbao and Malaga all with new coaches”. Have Bilbao and Malaga sack their caoch?

      • nzm
        March 26, 2012

        No – I meant that this season, they all started with new coaches. It usually takes a while for everyone to get used to each other and for it to all make sense. We’re starting to see that with Malaga and Mallorca. Bilbao is good too, with Bielsa – they seem to be going through a rough patch at the moment after knocking Man U out of the Europa.

  5. Chiu
    March 26, 2012

    Just an intermezzo. The silver linings I can conclude from the book contest are:

    – Based on the prediction of total league goals: majority of Cules still have an ample optimism we can win the league. We’re all guessing the team will reach more than 100 goals with 9 games to go. Mean, it’s averaged two or more number of goals per game. I think it clearly depict the hopefulness from Cules that we could potentially win all remaining matches. It’s hard for me to imagine we lose or draw a match if we could score more than 2 goals per game.

    – Based on the guess of goals we’d score in the upcoming Classico: mainstream opinion from Cules said we would put more than 2 goals pass Cassilas. The number defines the confidence we have in this team that we are competent to beat EE in the Camp Nou, once again.

    – Keep hope Cules! Visca BARCA!

  6. nzm
    March 26, 2012

    More good news: Afellay is travelling with the team to Milan! I’m guessing that he won’t play, but it means that he’s fit enough to be considered for squad selection. 😀

  7. Gogah
    March 26, 2012

    Good to hear that Afellay is back in our squad and Thiago Silva out of theirs. He was marshaling their entire defense and it’ll be interesting to see how they contain us without him. I feel good about this match up and I expect us to win this one, probably by a goal.

    This is the team I’d roll out with.
    ……….. VV ………..
    .. DA .. GP .. JM .. CP ..
    …. XH … SB … AI ….
    ….. AS .. LM .. TA …..

    only noticeable change is Thiago in LF over Cuenca or Cesc.
    Thiago’s dismissal was harsh in the previous game and I’d wager that his dribbling skills and combination play will be more valuable for us in this game. TA and AI can keep interchanging positions causing nightmares to the Milanese defense. I’d definitely leave cesc out of the starting lineup as i still have huge trouble figuring out what exactly he brings to the team.
    Being friends with Messi and his name shouldn’t be the deciding factor.

  8. blitzen
    March 26, 2012

    Andre Villas-Boas was at the Barça B game yesterday, btw. I joked on twitter about him looking for a job coaching the B team, but in all honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing him as a caretaker coach in the event Pep wants to take a year off. He obviously understands the Barça system, even if he couldn’t get those pigheaded senior citizens at Chelsea to figure it out.

    • rohitv16
      March 26, 2012

      I also feel AVB would be better off coaching teams like Barça B rather than the English sides which are reluctant to a complete overhaul like Chelsea. AVB’s tactics were decent while at Chelsea but his inability to adapt to a situation could come back to haunt him at any huge club.

    • sd
      March 26, 2012

      I second that. His failure at Chelsea was less a failure of his tactics but rather of fitting square pegs into round holes, underachieving players and individual errors. Chelsea just doesn’t have the technique defenders require to bring the ball up from the back or control the midfield. Part of the reason Romeu did so well was that there was no one else at Chelsea that has that first touch and vision. They do have very good box to box players. Though Terry may be a great defender David Luiz has no positional awareness and often gets caught late setting up the offside trap. Chelsea also dropped too many points with individual mistakes leading to lost games. AVB’s system like Pep’s and Bielsa relies on high pressure. High pressure requires players to move together (look at CR7 lost in the triangle of death when theres only one player pressing) and Chelsea’s player whether due to age, lack of speed or a lack of stamina never got the hold of it. In summary Villas-Boas would be a good coach for us if Pep leaves and Bielsa doesn’t want to leave Bilbao. Though Oscar Garcia is also a very good option.

      Laporta commented today “Next president? If I could choose, Guardiola. Next Coach? Xavi. Phenomenon.” (from Barcastuff) I hope it happens. That day could not come fast enough. Xavi as coach and Puyol and his sheep as assistants. Though Puyi says he never wants to coach.

      • Nik
        March 26, 2012

        If Puyol doesn’t want to coach, let’s just keep him on the sidelines to yell at certain defenders prone to lapses in concentration ;).

        • simple_barcafan
          March 26, 2012

          Even a statue of Puyol is enough to intimidate rivals and instill courage in our troops…

      • Laurentiu88
        March 26, 2012

        🙂 Puyol will be a great as assistant, he will control and scream all the time! Poor Pique … :)))

    • messifan
      March 26, 2012

      I would love to see him at Barca, but maybe not managing the first team yet. The B-team would be a good starting place for him but he might not want to take that position. Although I really admire his belief in playing possession-based attacking football, his man-management skills need to improve. He didn’t know how to communicate with Chelsea senior players to convince them to buy into his ideas.

      I read some comments from a Portuguese Porto fan awhile back on the Guardian blog. The story was that the President of Porto told AVB to stay at Porto for another year and then AVB could potentially position himself for Pep’s job at Barca. Apparently, Porto has always admired Barcelona and sees itself as Barca’s sister-club. But AVB wanted a challenge, accepted a pay cut, took the Chelsea job and got fired. Hopefully, the Chelsea experience teaches him a few things about football management.

  9. yassir (Formerly Extreme barca fan)
    March 26, 2012

    From UEFA’s official website:

    Injury news
    • Thiago Silva went off with a thigh injury early on against Roma, a game Van Bommel missed with a back problem.

    • Kevin-Prince Boateng (out since 15 February) and Alessandro Nesta (4 February) were on the bench on Saturday on their comeback from thigh problems, with Boateng coming on in the second half. Clarence Seedorf was also on the bench in his second game back from a similar knock suffered on 15 February.

    • Pato (25 February) and Ignazio Abate (15 March) remain sidelined by thigh injuries, and Milan’s injury list also includes Robinho (ankle, 14 March) and Alexander Merkel (knee, 26 January).

    • Gennaro Gattuso, out since 9 September after being diagnosed with sixth nerve palsy, returned to action on 17 March. He, Antonio Cassano (heart, out since 29 October) and Mathieu Flamini (knee ligaments, 21 August) are all ineligible for the UEFA Champions League.

    U can find more info if you click this link

    • Clouseau
      March 26, 2012

      Abate, Robinho and Maxi Lopez started the training with the squad. But their Injury whoes surpasses Barças by miles *lol*

  10. mangut
    March 26, 2012

    Good read. I got the sense that during the last game in Milan Guardiola decided to test his three man line under real fire before trying out in Madrid. It lead to both Milan goals because the back three were so stretched out.
    Alves needs to play on the right. Puyol can handle the left. The only problem, as mentioned, is that there is no depth. Love the “sky is blue” line. Adriano is made of glass. Guardiola needs to trust Muniesa and Montoya during league games. They are ready.
    Back to Milan. They have enough fire power to be dangerous but if Guardiola does not let them in the game Barca should dominate. Milan is hurt by losing Silva but are still a threat from set plays, no need to help them by crowding the midfield but giving up a defender. Overkill in the midfield is great but all it takes is one loss of possession and the counter puts the high back line of three at a huge disadvantage. Barca were fortunate several times early on against Mallorca. Milan would put those opportunities away.

    • Laurentiu88
      March 26, 2012

      i have seen some highlights of their game with Roma and they did have a lot of clear chances! I think they are also on peak form! We must be really careful.

  11. blitzen
    March 26, 2012

    Article on La Masia from the Wall Street Journal:

    Don’t think this writer really understands the meaning of the term “homegrown”. In his opinion Xavi joining at 11 qualifies him as homegrown, but Messi or Iniesta joining at 12 does not, because they were previously playing with other teams. But so was Xavi, you know. He didn’t just start playing football at 11. None of Puyol, Busquets or Pedro count as a “youth product” because they were already 17 when they joined (although they all spent at least 4 years in junior teams before being promoted). Or, he says, if you do count them, then you can’t count either of Pique or Fabregas, who both left at 16 before returning to the club later (after spending 6 years at La Masia).

    Personally I don’t see it why it has to be an either-or. Obviously Barcelona has never pretended that every canterano was born steps from the Camp Nou and admitted to the youth academy at birth. Scouts are constantly looking for new talent to bring in and develop. Some come at a very young age, others aren’t spotted or aren’t ready until they are older, but they all go through the same system and learn to play football the same way. To me, anyone who has spent at least a couple of years in the youth system qualifies, with the exception of older players like Carmona and Armando who were specifically brought in to strengthen the B team when it was promoted to La Segunda.

    • Laurentiu88
      March 26, 2012

      i think you are right. the journalist may be correct it suggesting that this is ‘the eternal’ debate of nature vs nurture. but no one suggested that la masia is the final argument for the nurture side! the reason why the debate is never ending is that there are never clear cases of nature or nurture (you can train me for 10 years i will never be any good for ex). the barca model shows that just a little more investment in nurturing together with a clear philosophy can make all the marginal difference in sports dynamic where these differences have become so small. (just consider how good RM have been and what they have won 🙂 )

    • I think the difference between scouting vs academy is rather obvious- youth teams are where they’re trained and developed, first team is where they play. Kids who enter the youth teams for development are scouted, sure, whether at 11 in Barcelona or 12 in Albacete or 13 in Rosario. Then they go on to be trained and developed in a great academy to emerge. So Barcelona has a fantastic academy, and a team like Arsenal for example has a fantastic scouting system- they mostly scout talented but lesser-known players (Song, Sagna, Henry, Walcott, Fabregas) who are 17-20 and bring them into the first team, give them playing time at top CL-contending level, and embed them into the side (Wilshere and Ashley Cole are probably the only high-profile current academy graduates who passed through the youth ranks).

  12. mom4
    March 26, 2012

    Kari, good post but you left out the tactical importance of the inclusion of Own Goal to the starting XI. He was phenomemal that game.

    Rewatched the game as well. That Messi pass to Xavi, wow! Boatang’s goal was a thing of beauty it must be said. Cesc’s hair was at its most awful. I suppose we will wear minty green kits again. I cringe at the thought of 1 1/2 hours of FSC commentators.

    Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyi
    Busi, Own Goal Xavi, Iniesta
    Alexis, Messi, Cesc
    And the forces of Hell shall not prevail against us!…I hope.

    • hansh
      March 26, 2012

      Crap, it’s on FSC? Sigh, I’m looking forward to the game a tiny bit less now.

      I like your lineup except for Cesc, who tends to cut inside from the wing and make Iniesta cover out wide like the conscientious player he is, and then everybody misses Andrés in the middle except for Cesc himself who is too busy chipping balls to Messi to worry about how lonely Ini is on the wing.

      I really wish we had Villa healthy now. I’d rather give Cuenca or Tello a start over Cesc on the wing, but I can’t see Pep doing that. Pedro will most likely start and score a hat trick because he misses being called Pedro!! by the fine denizens of BFB.

  13. Kimcelona
    March 26, 2012

    Great post!

    I really dont think we should start with a 3 man backline. When I think of Nocerino (if he starts), Ibra, El Sharaawy, possibly Binho and KPB heading down to our goal mouth with only 3 defenders; one whos not been good for the season and one slow one..I am already shaking like a leaf. Please Pep for my sanity and my health at least start with a 4 man backline.

    Iniesta looked tired in the Mallorca match..hopefully he doesnt start on the bench.
    Lexis will be really important in this game.
    Pique better have his thinking cap on..and I hope Cesc leaves his whining at home.

    My preferred starting XI:

    Dani, Pique, Masche, Puyi
    Busi, Xavi, Ini
    Alexis, Messi, Cesc

    With subs: Thiago, Tello (may be a big ask) and Keitee

  14. IamXavi6
    March 27, 2012

    Honestly I do not rate Milan at all.

    I fully expect a 3-0 win easily to Barca.

    • Agreed, I feel like I’m one of the only people who think Milan are rather average.

      Where are you watching the game and how? Is it gonna be on SBS?

    • K_legit in Oz
      March 27, 2012

      Another one from the land down under?

      I am watching it on streams but watching it on delay in a pub with the Melbourne penya!

      • Laurentiu88
        March 27, 2012

        they don’t look average right now; they did totally dominate Arsenal and right now are in a very very good form. they had so many clear chances with Roma…

        i am afraid. this UCL games are tricky all it takes is for them to have some chances or god forbid score and with a full stadium behind they can really take the game to us. and until recently we were not even winning the away games! we didnt even win at bayern by 3 goals, even if our form improved it’s still Milan whom apparently never lost any game at home in these stages…

        i do hope for a great victory thou’ 🙂 hope we can shred their defense 🙂

    • Kimcelona
      March 27, 2012

      I’m glad you’re not Pep.

      I’ve watched Milan just as long as I’ve watched Barca for and to me, though they may not be as technically gifted as Barca, they are very dangerous.

      They have a good mixture of talent and experience.
      We’ll see tomorrow.

  15. Chiu
    March 27, 2012

    – My line up for Milan clash:

    Alves – Masch – Pique – Puyol
    Busi – Xavi – Iniesta
    Pedro – Messi – Alexis

    I don’t feel secure if we start with 3-4-3 against Milan in San Siro. They discovered how to capitalize on our 3 man defenders last time we met and cost us 2 goals tangentially. It would be inexcusable in the CL quarter final if we concede goals from the similar tactical miscalculation, unless Pep has a solid plan to correct and avoid it. I think it’s much safer to begin with 4-3-3. An alternative to morph into 3-4-3 would be depending on match situation if Pep wants to.

    – We absolutely need Pique in the field, particularly to keep an eye on Ibra. He’s the most suitable counter for Ibra from physical and height characteristics.

    – The absence of Thiago Silva and Abbate; the only “young” defenders they have is a big misfortune for Milan. The speed of our forwards would be advantageous against “old” Milan defenders. I favor Pedro to start over Cesc is based on their non-appearance. The pace from Pedro could potentially generate more opening for us.

    – We must be alert with their counter attack and dead ball situation. Ibra and Boateng would be their main man to be watched. In the group stage, they created those two goals just out of a few opportunities they have. I hope the team is fit enough to maintain the intense pressure throughout. We must make sure the ball delivery to Ibra is kept minimum and mark Boateng closely. Otherwise their individual moment could risk us in split second. We recognized how physically powerful Ibra if we provide him room to shoot or penetrate.

    – All in all, I am cautiously confident we would get favorable away result as long as we could produce our top game. The full concentration in 90 minutes is essential against elite team like Milan. They could strike any time if we lose focus. My prediction we would win with 1 goal margin; 0-1 or 1-2. Better than that score or more away goals would be a great souvenir for Camp Nou crowds.

    Visca BARCA!

    • Jafri
      March 27, 2012

      Didn’t Nesta play against us in the group? And wasn’t he a beast then?

  16. Chiu
    March 27, 2012

    From barcastuff:

    Andres Conde (director UNICEF): “Barcelona are supporting our most difficult battle, the one against HIV-AIDS in Africa. Barça pay each year 1.5M to finance our projects for children. Since 2006, they’ve donated 9M.”

    – More reasons to be proud as a Cules. I love this team on and off the pitch. Visca BARCA!

  17. nzm
    March 27, 2012

    From Cristian Tello’s Facebook page:
    Abidal no va a volver. Le deseo suerte, y todas mis fuerzas y pensamientos están con él!!!

    Todo el apoyo a través de esta página, la cuota de todo el mundo!!! Y gracias a todos.

    Abidal is not returning. I wish him luck, all strength and my thoughts are with you.

    Support him through this page: Share it with the world. Thanks to all.

    • blitzen
      March 27, 2012

      Which facebook page are you looking at? There is more than one Tello page and I’m not sure either of them are official.

      I doubt very much that Tello would be making pronouncements about Abidal’s future when the club itself hasn’t made any statement.

      • Ryan
        March 27, 2012

        Yeah, I usually get a FB status update from all the official Barca players whenever another player gets a FB page. I haven’t heard of an official Tello yet.

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 27, 2012

      Hey M,
      What does Tello imply by saying Abidal is not returning. Is his condition so serious that he will never be able to play for Barca?
      Thanks. S.

    • nzm
      March 27, 2012

      All: Cristian’s Facebook page came up on another Barca player’s feed the other day – can’t remember who, but he gave this link: and welcomed him to Facebook. If I remember who it was, I’ll tell you. I check out the links quite thoroughly for the Barca players, and usually don’t “Like” the pages unless I’m reasonably sure that they are legit. Cristian’s looks ok, so far. I de-listed Alexis Sanchez because things were put on there that either made him look like an idiot or totally in love with himself. 😀

      S: that’s all it says. Apparently Abi’s operation isn’t until Thursday which is weird because I thought that it was arranged for yesterday. I just hope that they’re not holding back bad news until after tomorrow’s game.

      • blitzen
        March 27, 2012

        I’m suspicious of any player page that allows you to post on its wall. Not just add a comment, but create an actual post. Something not right there.

        • nzm
          March 27, 2012

          That’s true.

          Perhaps we should produce a list of “official” Twitter and Facebook player pages.

          • blitzen
            March 27, 2012

            On the official club website, they do list the “social media” sites for the first team players (go to the squad list and click on the player. Social media is one of the tabs you can choose).

            Unfotunately they don’t do that for the B team.

          • nzm
            March 27, 2012

            Yeah – but it’s not always as up-to-date as it should be!

  18. Peterj
    March 27, 2012

    I hope we thrash them..i m so tired of milan fans on their offside,particularly that gianfranco guy,always trying to slate spanish teams…i hope we finish the tie at that awful stadium san siro

  19. barca96
    March 27, 2012

    How come the Spanish FA or even the English FA can cancel out a yellow card (S. Ramos) but they can’t give bans or even yellow cards for the ones that the referees missed (Pepe & Ramos) during matches?

    • Jafri
      March 27, 2012

      They cancelled it saying the referee hadn’t explained it properly in his report. Maybe his grammar was bad or something. That’s the only time they change decisions, based solely on the report. Otherwise not even if it’s infraction caught on film for the World to see. It’s why the RFEF is a steaming pile of horse droppings.

  20. March 27, 2012

    Great article Kari! Very much agree with your take on the increased flexibility Pep is evolving over the course of this season.

    What he’s doing is so interesting.

    If you look at the Mallorca match – Barca started with a 3-4-3. But that 3-4-3 wasn’t particularly similar to the 3-4-3 they were running earlier this season. They key change – Cesc’s role is very different vs. Mallorca. They played more of a “classic” 3-1-3-3 than a 3-4-3 diamond/rhombus.

    Then as the game went on Pep switched shape. After they went up 1-0 Pep moved Busi to CB and Thiago to the holding role. That’s just a real testament to how good Thiago is. A year ago it would have seemed crazy to think that he could play the holding role for Barca in a critical match.

    With the sending off Pep then had to change shape again. Putting Montoya in the game made sense – and he played very well.

    Unfortunately, even then Barca where losing the battle of midfield. And it wasn’t until Pep took off a forward (Pedro) for an additional midfielder (Keita) that the team started to regain composure with 10 men.

    I think we’ll see similar dynamic tactics vs. Milan. It’s now to the point where it’s very difficult for the opposing managers to develop a “plan” against Barca because Pep can vary what he wants to do dynamically within one match.

  21. nzm
    March 27, 2012

    Benfica holding their own against Chelsea early in the game. They’re obviously not in awe of their opposition.

  22. mom4
    March 27, 2012

    Apoel not looking too shabby. Still 0-0!

    • Ryan
      March 27, 2012

      It helps when Benzema misses sitters 😉

  23. Jafri
    March 27, 2012

    I’m not watching, but from the text commentary on it seems like APOEL have been really lucky to get this far without conceding.

    • mom4
      March 27, 2012

      No, not really. They are having trouble keeping posession long enough to start any attack, but they look pretty good in defense. They are playing their hearts out though and are likely to tire, but 0-0 after the half?…where there’s life there’s hope.

  24. Manish
    March 27, 2012

    PS3 or XBox.. the only games i have really played and enjoyed are EA fifa and PES and God of War series..(in my old old ps2..psp).. help help..

    • Ryan
      March 27, 2012

      Most of the best games are multi-platform, so you can’t go wrong with either system.

    • March 27, 2012

      PS3 so that I can kick yo butt! There’s manii too.

      Plenty of good games available, don’t worry. Uncharted, Arkham City, GTA, FIFA, etc.

      • Manish
        March 27, 2012

        [thundering voice..] I am the self proclaimed champ of PES…

        • March 27, 2012

          PS3 all the way. If I wanted a controller the size of my house I’d go for the XBOX.

          FIFA12 come at me bro.

  25. March 27, 2012

    Re: Abidal

    Everything that I have read about the procedure that Eric Abidal is about to undergo suggests that, irrespective of the veracity of the Tello account, Abidal is done as a footballer.

    In addition to the lengthy recovery time, the area usually needs to be protected from impacts. And then there are the anti-rejection drugs, etc, etc, and their side effects.

    The recovery period is 6 months to a year, assuming that all goes well with the anti-rejection drugs. Side effects of those drugs are brutal, as they essentially zap your immune system (so that your body doesn’t treat the liver as a foreign invader, and try to reject it). This means that the risk of infections from cuts or other skin and/or body damage is significantly higher than it would be for the patient, pre-transplant.

    I just don’t see any way that the man who cleared a ball with his head is going to be able to come back from the liver transplant and become the same, effective player that he has been heretofore.

    What’s more, I don’t care. What I want him to be able to do is sit down to dinner with his wife, hug his kids and have them call him “Papa.” The end. Football takes a distant back seat to life for me, and almost certainly for Abidal as well, even though it’s this thing he loves, the thing that has been his life until now.

    Just wanted to put that out there. Not being my typical Debbie Downer self. My guess is that, given that the transplant was an option last season (as the team doctors and Abidal knew), and given the knowledge of what said operation would do, he decided to have the really nasty bit excised and play as much as he could. Speaks to his love of the club and his teammates.

    • blitzen
      March 27, 2012

      We know, Kxevin. Just some of us would prefer to wait until he gets through the operation to write him off as a player. 🙁

      Really hoping everything goes well for him.

  26. simple_barcafan
    March 27, 2012

    wow..both away teams Real And Chelsea scores their first goal at around the same time 74th team…

  27. March 27, 2012

    Nolito comes on for Benfica and shoots to the stands. Still high on caffeine

  28. Manish
    March 27, 2012

    In the last few weeks I have developed this annoyingly high degree of hatred towards Jose .. he is such an a#@#@ l@s@#@# ..

    • mom4
      March 27, 2012

      Beware, Manish. Watch your language. People have been banned for less than using the word a#@#@etc.

  29. mom4
    March 27, 2012

    Well, at least you know who didn’t score.

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