If you’re like me (and for the sake of your loved ones I hope you are not), you aren’t actually all that interested in this game. I mean, yeah, Champions League quarterfinal second legs are pretty awesome things, but until tomorrow, until actual game day, this is all I’m thinking about, really. I’m selectively reading things that make John Calipari sound like the scumbag I think he is, but which his track record doesn’t necessarily show (but note the “doesn’t necessarily” part) and wondering not how to stop Anthony Davis, but rather how to shoot over him.
All right, I’ll focus for a second–just a second, though! Xavi didn’t train, but it looks like Cesc will be back in the lineup. That’s bad news followed by good news, though Cesc hasn’t shown the same aptitude for controlling a game that many thought he’d have; not that he should be replacing Xavi, especially not with a few more years to go in his career, but it does highlight how immense Xavi is. Cesc and Iniesta are fantastic footballers, but they’re incapable of running the Barça offense like Xavi. They make the team better, that’s for sure, but they don’t make the center of midfield a no-fly zone for opponents. They’re both more of the attacker than the defender (though they’re no slouches on that end by any means), so it’s going to be a bit more difficult to get hold of the rhythm of this match if Xavi really can’t go.
The problem is that Milan has one player that can really unsettle Barça. It’s not Ibra, it’s not Robinho, it’s not Nesta. It’s Clarence Seedorf. He may look like a surly jerkface when he’s on the field, but Seedorf is an immense player. If it weren’t for him, I think Barça would have run roughshod over Milan last week. We’re talking 2 or 3 goals. But Seedorf was there and he not only provided ridiculous defensive steel and wherewithal, but also attacking verve and insane defense-splitting passes. At this moment, I do not like Clarence Seedorf because he is extremely good. Very much like Anthony Dav–focus! Gotta focus.
This match will, for many cules, define the season. If we lose (or draw with goals), it will be a failure of a season. It will be an unmitigated disaster. It will be a giant sinkhole in the middle of a brilliant run. Because, uh, well, um…I’m not sure. Because losing to the best team in Italy is somehow just not done? Because quarterfinals aren’t good enough anymore? Because some other inane reason I can’t fathom because I think it’s hooey? If we don’t advance beyond this point and don’t win La Liga and even if we lose the Copa del Rey final, I can’t think of how the season could ever be deemed a failure. But then again, I’m definitely a little bit crazy to think that reaching a final (CDR) or Sweet 16 (CL) or coming in 2nd (League) is somehow not disaster.
Here are the outcomes:
0-0 draw: extra time, penalties.
Draw with goals (1-1, 2-2, 81-81): Milan go through
Any win: winning team goes through
Basically, from what I can see, it’s win or go home. And that’s it. Win or you’re out. A draw won’t really help, so win it outright and it’s off to the semis, the beautiful Final Four. Why not go for broke? There’s only one way this Barça team knows how to play and that is with the ball and going forward. Move it or lose it, put it in the back of the net or take the nets down in tears. Winning is certainly fun. More fun than losing. No one likes to lose, but it’s a part of life.
It’s also at the Camp Nou. It’s also on our field, with our grass, with our watering, with our understanding of the dimensions, space, and crowd. What’s not to love about that? If we complained about the field in Milan, maybe Milan will complain about the field being too conducive to passing, to one-touch football, to Messi shimmying through the defense, Iniesta turning on a dime and lacing a brilliant through ball
There are no excuses, just football. Time to play.
Official Prediction: 2-1. A tense ending to a rough game in which Ibra has terrible hair and Messi gets a brace.