Milano and Winning

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.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. So looking forward to this game!!! Besides Seedorf, Pato is also very dangerous. He has the pace to unsettle the defense.

  2. Pato makes the presence of Mascherano ever more imperative. The scoreline depends on who scores first. Guardiola thinks they will score a goal. If they score first, I’d go with Isaiah’s scoreline. If we score first, they will have to open up, then we got ’em, probably 3 or 4-1, provided we play as we did against Bilbao.

    But make no mistake, they will play this match exactly as they did at home: bunker in deep, and play off the counter.

    Midfield pressure will be enormous, as they will essentially have attackers who just wait for the ball. So if we can cut off that supply, we’re in good shape. I think that the Bilbao pressing was a rehearsal for tomorrow’s match. And note: No Xavi for that one, either. Even if you take into account the scrimmage nature of the match, from two sides just coming off midweek encounters, with their eye on the next midweek encounters, the pressing was still awesome. And note the extensive Messi involvement yesterday as well, in Xavi’s absence. Made him a lot more dangerous, IMHO, as you really did have no idea where he was going to pop up. Sanchez is another wild card. If he plays as he did against Bilbao, we’re going through.

  3. The whole week i’ve been excited for the match, now i’m nervous. This is compounded knowing any kind of draw and it’s curtains for us. I’ve been trying not be be a negative nelly but, it’s a real possibility we might get knocked out tomorrow. I don’t think i’m ready for that dissapointment, so Barca have to win(fingers crossed). It’s going to be tough and VERY defensive coz any mistake could be costly. One thing Barca has to do, is to pass the ball a lot quicker around those 35yr olds than they did last week.

    1. Don’t worry. Losing is part of life. I just saw a great quote from a buddy: “Disappointment is inevitable, discouragement is a choice.” So there you go.

      This season the best club in the world has had to deal with a perfect storm of injuries, illnesses and medical procedures. We didn’t have a single left back for a while. Even now, we have only one. Iniesta has been funky, Pedro is off form, people are battling their way back from various things.

      Despite it all, we are one Evil Empire slip up away from being in with a real shot at La Liga, one great match away from the Champions League semifinals, in the Plat del Reig final and have already won: SuperCopa, World Club and UEFA SuperCup. Are all of those minor compared to the big ones? Yep. But nonetheless, this club has had success this season. I’ll go you one better: Milan is the most difficult opponent we will have to face in this Champions League tournament.

      Now in the face of all of that adversity (which spread to the coaching staff, even, with the Vilanova illness) We could have gotten down, could have moped and said “Everything is against us.” Some have. I won’t. We’ve played through Hlebruary and are now rounding into top form. If you look at the respective schedules, they still have to see Valencia, Bilbao, ATM (where we can expect they will make the usual withdrawal), Sevilla and Bilbao (when they won’t be tired from Europa League encounters), not to mention us. I have to think they’re going to drop some points between here and there. The question is, will we?

      On paper, we shouldn’t. We have EE and Espanyol as the big danger sides. Yes, this season we have had a way of making non-danger sides the banana peels, while triumphing against the serious sides. I believe the rest of the season will be different. Afellay is due back soon, and Villa is in the last stage of his recovery, chattering about (even though he’s crazy) a Clasic return.

      So there is much more reason to be optimistic than pessimistic. And if disappointment happens, it will make this club, this team, this group of players, no less wonderful.


    2. Agree with your La Liga optimism, but both the LWBs and Bayern Munich would disagree with your assessment on their relative strengths versus Milan’s. This is as weak a Milan team as I can remember. Both of the above mentioned teams would advance if pitted against this Milan side. If we don’t tomorrow, it will be a massive disappointment.

      And that being said, I feel more uneasy than I should. 0-0 1st leg away makes me so.

      Belief in this team, belief in Pep, and copious amounts of alcohol should settle my nerves tomorrow. I hope.

      Visca Barça!!

  4. I’m i in?….. Wait a min.. I’m i really here? Ohk kess be cool man be cool, hey u amigo i see u, nah not u….. u wearing yellow…..nah not u…. The taller one……yes u whats ur name….barca whah? K man whatever……
    I’m new here (not new unto 1st time of visitation, man, dont u knw me? M the guy that reads all ur articles). that aside, i’d like to say the BFB family is tight and…..(dont worry something will come up).
    Back to the match i think keita should start this one and also, ghostface and baby T(not used to the name? C’mon thats what Nigerians call thiago) should pair… Plus i’m not particularly ok with the idea that tello shld start i think pedro pressures more pep should just stick with his cameo sub ish(issue, hahaha got me, another Nigeria slang) … Hope we beat them coz it’d be a shame not to win **coughs** sowi, not to be at the semis of the UCL… Sowi 4 d brackets i’m just tryna impress barca girl #lol

  5. If we haven’t scored by the 60th minute, we are OUT!
    that’s for sure.
    But this is the Camp Nou. Things are done slightly different here.
    Lets do this.

    1. I don’t think that’s true. We tire teams out with our passing, who’s to say we don’t sneak in some goals near the end? We managed to finally get a goal past Cesar in 2010 despite over 60 minutes of nothing. After 60 minutes you can be sure Pique will want to venture forward more though. 🙂

  6. We’re all gonna die…um…I mean…This is where we fight! This is where they die!

    A little depressed that we probably won’t have Xavi. So:
    Alves, Masch, Pique, Puyol
    Busi, Iniesta, Thiago
    Pedro, Messi, Sanchez
    Classic Barcamoeba formation.
    Really think we need Pedro for this one. I don’t think we’ll see Adriano because he just played a full game two days ago coming off an injury. Milan only drew at Catania on Saturday…hope they’re tired as well.

    1. This my lineup too. I think Pedro will be up for it. Just possibly Cesc gets the start over Sanchez since he is more rested, but I would prefer Sanchez for sure.

    2. Looks good. Just please don’t give me ninety minutes of Keita. Please.

      I’m not asking for much.

      May I have a cookie? With rum?

    3. With one exception to your lineup Mom. Cesc to start instead of Pedro. Even play Cesc as the false nine tomorrow with Messi starting wide right and moving as he sees fit. Also, have Masch as the LCB splitting Piqué and Puyol (LB).

  7. I would like to see this on the pitch:
    Masche, Pique, Puyol
    Alves, Xavi(if he’s fit) or iniesta, Busquets, Adriano
    Cesc, Messi, Sanchez

    We would get the necessary width, we would get the box to box guy, and the Xavi-Messi usual brilliance. It’s CampNou, if this guys control the game, and use their potential, we’re getting to semis. I hope for a good referee, no funny business.

    1. As to Milan. The Dutch (especially Ajax), Milan and Barca usually have fantastic interrelations, don’t they? Rijkaard, Davids, van Bommel, Reiziger, Bogarde… Ibrahimovic, Ronaldinho… Cruyff, Neeskens, de Boer, van Gaal, Overmars, Koeman… van Basten, Gullit, Seedorf…

  8. I’m probably more nervous than I was before the first CL Clasico last year!

    This Milan side is an enigma to me. I don’t know how they succeeded to draw 2-2 against us in the Camp Nou, I don’t know how a player like Ambrosini and the likes of Nesta and Bonera could defend us in the first leg without even pushing to their limits. That’s how the first leg seemed to me, Milan shut us down without even giving their best effort.
    I can only pray that we sort of deliberately played slow against them and that tomorrow, the best Barca side and attitude shows up!
    If we then still don’t win against Milan, I will be devastated for a short moment. But at least I want to say that the team tried everything to reach the semis. They were far away from that in the 1st leg imo.

    I did not watch the Bilbao match, but it seems like the fire was there again. I wanna see the burning desire of each player tomorrow. Then it will be very tough for Milan to go through. And if they still do, hats off to them!
    Although I might have to question everything about the Universe if the likes of Ambrosini can neutralize one of the best attacking midfield and forward line ever :/

    1. If you get a chance, you should watch that Athletic match. It was probably the best game of the season. A lot of intensity. Barca had less than 60% possession but the pressing was so good, it didn’t feel like we had less possession than normal.

    2. Please,

      Milan fought hard that game. They had to give everything to shut us down. Anyone can park the bus and still have energy left because it means less pressing and 1 v 1’s. Also, the PITCH WAS SH@T.

  9. My brain refuses to believe our CL could possibly be over tomorrow. I guess if we get knocked out I will be in a state of shock for a while, so I’d better mentally prepare for it. That being said I see us going through.

    Getting the first goal will be important. It will force them to come out.

    1. Getting the first goal is nice, but we let in an early goal vs. Arsenal at home and still progressed. Gotta love the team’s patience and calm under fire!

  10. To my view, our best attacking lineup (assuming Xavi isn’t going to play) utilizes Thiago on the left wing. Yes, Thiago. And Mascherano has to be on the pitch.

    At the San Siro, we helped them defend by essentially forgetting that the left side of the pitch existed. So they could pack it center/right, and we kept tilting at their cadre of classic Serie A defender-windmills, like wee Quixotes. Even at that, it was only some poor, poor finishing that didn’t see us grab an away goal or two.

    They are going to pack it back and try to unleash Pato, or a long ball to Ibrahimovic. But because their defenders don’t start play traditionally, it’s going to have to come through the midfield for them. This means Seedorf, Boateng, etc. If we press them as I know that we can, they will not have time or space to be creative with long passes, which means that our defenders will revert to what they are best at, sweepers.

    I also believe that Mascherano HAS to be on the pitch. Right now, he is our best defender. Puyol bleeds Blaugrana, but if I had to have one man between our midfield and Valdes, that man would be Mascherano. So my back line is:

    Alves Pique Puyol Mascherano

    We give up some attacking thrust that we would get from Adriano, but we get something more valuable: A stand-up, lock-down defender who can slide tackle the gods themselves. And we need that. Adriano getting caught up the pitch on a fast counter would worry me.

    In the midfield, control and pressing will be answer. If no Xavi, then I’d like to see:

    Busquets Iniesta Fabregas

    Fabregas has proven increasingly adept at tracking back on defense. He has a great eye for the through ball and particularly, the ball over the top, which has the added value of getting us in their box, where good things can happen, rather than trying to play our way in. Iniesta will need to have a whale of a match, one significantly better than he has been playing, but one will within his capabilities. Busquets was majestic against Bilbao. I will expect no less against Milan.

    My front line has to be able to primarily unsettle their defenders from all sides of the pitch. Messi needs space to operate and for me, a guy like Pedro is too easy to defend. So make my left winger Thiago, who has pace, strength, ball skills, a shot and the requisite fearlessness. He also has the tactical discipline to understand when to keep the pitch wide, and when to cut in and raise hell. And make no mistake, control and speed of play will be crucial in unsettling a bunkered defense. The window will be small.

    On the other side, Sanchez was brilliant against Bilbao. He won’t be able to play the same kind of match against Milan because of how they space the pitch, but if he has the same kind of effort, alertness and verve, he will be a constant danger to them. All of this should make life easier for Messi, in that he has two distributors who can play the ball to him from the wings, or score themselves (particularly Thiago). This makes my front line:

    Thiago Messi Sanchez

    This lineup also gives us an extra midfielder in the attack in Thiago when needed, for the pressure-applying 4-4-2 look. The key player for me will be Busquets. If he has a very good match, we aren’t going to lose.

    Also helping things is that we are at home, and NOT on a cow pasture. Also helping us is that their attackers have one job. That job will keep our defenders (well, 3 of them) from roaming too far, but it will also mean that if we can starve them of possession, I just don’t see us losing as long as we are vigilant on the counter. It is this last thing that makes my advocacy of Thiago conditional, as he is still too casual with possession for me.

    I can’t wait. I think that it is going to be a very good match, as the San Siro match was (for neutrals). If both clubs play to the best of their abilities, we advance, because we are the best club in the world right now. Simple as that.

    1. I too like Thiago up top to the left. It makes sense but has been used sparingly. This way Thiago does not get in Iniesta’s way as he does in midfield. I think Thiago is paired much better with Xavi in midfield. Tomorrow I see Pep using Adriano up top instead though. Something about Milan’s countering has Pep nervous. I don’t think Xavi will be ready to play so Fabregas is in. If Barcelona score first then I see them scoring more than three. But they need to move the ball quickly and not get bogged down in the middle-right of the field. This is a game for Sanchez to prove his mettle.

    2. Great analysis Kxevin. Like you indicated, the key to beating them remains the same as last time – width. Stretch the defense. Don’t play through the middle. Iniesta on the wing yet drifting in completely negated that strategy, and when he came in, there seemed to be some confusion over roles rather than an extra body in midfield.

      I’d like to see Sanchez on the left though. He and Dani caused chaos on both the wings when we morphed into the 3-5-2 against Madrid. I’m not sure why they’re playing on the same side of the pitch now.

    3. Don’t mind you lineup. But the Iniesta/Thiago pairing was pretty brilliant on Saturday. Then again, a little of Cesc’s directness might be just what the doctor ordered. Is he fully fit?

      You’re right, Mascherano MUST play. And the real Pique must show up. I hope that he is back for good. Defensively, I’m good with Pedro, Sanchez, Thiago on the wings. Any of those 3 tracking back is effective. Offensively I’m not sure. Puyol at LB won’t add too much to the attack. Don’t know if a CL quarter final with everything on the line is a good time to start experimenting with Mascherano at LB( although if anybody can come into a position cold and still own it it would be him). We need width. My question is- can Thiago be disciplined enough to stay out wide? Anywho, I don’t think that this is the right game for any of the babies to start (gee, I just realized that I am no longer lumping Thiago in with the babies).

      This has all the makings of a beautiful game. We play pretty, then we go through.

    4. Mascherano will start, but centrally. Puyol at LB. We need Mascherano’s pace centrally positioned.

    5. I think we’re past the point of guessing whether Monster Mash will be on the pitch. It’s a vitrual lock. Best defender in the world right now. I really believe that. Pep is genius. I haven’t seen much of Argentina lately. Is he still playing DM or has he put on the backline where he is a MASTER?

  11. “I take it as a given that Milan will score against us,” – Pep during the pre match conference. Is it just me or does any one think Pep is getting a bit pessimistic. Of course he has been always humble and played down our chances, while praising the opponents and highlighting their strength’s…but this season, he is a bit more pessimistic than usual…

    1. I mean how should Puyol or anyone other defender respond if the press tell them that this is what their boss said…They would be like “ya..thats his opinion ,but we will make sure that we wont concede”?

    2. Pep’s comments often sound humble. And he no doubt genuinely means to compliment the other team, being the gentleman that he is. However, I take what he says at pre-game pressers with a grain of salt knowing that he is just as capable as the next coach at mind games.

    1. haha…the little kid at the end hugging Bielsa is adorable. I hope they win the Europa League and for the CDR, may the best team win.

  12. Hey everyone, I have news! My school runs exchange programs through the foreign language department… and next year I’m going to Spain! I’ve been dreaming about this since I started high school and it’s just been confirmed. I am so, so, so excited 😀

    We will start in Barcelona for a few days, then be in Zaragoza for about 10 days, and we’ll end the trip in Madrid. Naturally, this means I finally found my second team in La Liga, Real Zaragoza!

    Yes, I know they’re terrible and are in the relagation zone right now. But if they’re not relegated then I’ll probably get to go to a real, live Liga match next April. And if they do get relagated… La Segunda would be great to see too.

    I’m so happy. This is a dream come true!

    1. Oh my, that’s really awesome! How lucky you are, congratulations!

      Hopefully someday I’ll find a way (AND a whole lot of money, lol) to travel to Spain.. 😀

    2. BarcaGirl,

      Credit’s a wonderful thing! Just don’t rack up to much of it! lol

  13. Trying to get my mind off the big match tomorrow. I’ve had enough reading about previews and the like about the 2nd leg. My solution is to read a book today, “Soccer Men” by Simon Kuper. Highly recommended and well written by a very good author.

    I just hope that Pep doesn’t slip in the shower and bump his head in the tub tomorrow like he did in Milan the day of the first leg. Pep, please don’t start Keita. Wear non slip flip flops into the shower tomorrow morning. Or, better yet, tell Keita the kick-off time has been moved back 75 minutes to 22:00 local — just like a league match.

    1. Dude, seriously? Keita was NOT the problem in the first leg, he was quite good in his role. Granted, he wouldn’t be in my starting lineup either for the 2nd leg, but c’mon, you’re acting like he let in an own goal and missed a sitter!

    1. Bojan made a wonderful gesture with that celebration. That said, NO he does not need to come back. Are you forgetting that he bad mouthed PEP otw out the door and showed the maturity of an emotional spoilt child while here? He doesn’t figure in the plans. I’d take Alexis, Tello, Cuenca, even Afellay over him any day. If he shows more maturity in 5-6 years and progresses and then APOLOGIZES for his remarks about PEP then maybe I’d consider having him back.

  14. i dont know if everybody read, but some asked why has Milan played with the away kit in the San Siro. The answer is superstition – that they have never lost wearing white! 🙂 Ok i know in sports superstitions are the law, don’t even what to go into mine – from what i wear to where and with whom i watch Barca game :)… and remember we too had something similar with the bright orange kit – wearing it in the away leg with Liverpool some years back…

    So is it another challenge for us? 🙂 Are we fighting ‘fate’?

    ahh, as Hume dixit ‘the future does not have to resemble the past’, i’ll go with the reason… this time!

    1. man there needs to be some option to correct mistakes… i sound illiterate..

    1. seems so 🙂 they report that he trained normally with the group this morning.

  15. From Our Official Website

    Samuel Eto’o is withdrawing his lawsuit against FC Barcelona
    FC Barcelona has received notification of the decree issued by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia by accepting the document in which the player Samuel Eto’o has decided to withdraw its lawsuit against FC Barcelona. In this lawsuit, the player claiming the Club to pay € 3 million, plus interest, by way of participation in the price of a move to Inter Milan.

    With this search, making the judgment of the Court firmly Social Barcelona April 28, 2010, by dismissing the lawsuit filed by the player against FC Barcelona and definitively resolve the proceedings.

    FC Barcelona wants to publicly thank their willingness to resolve this dispute with Samuel Eto’o, one of the greatest scorers in our history.

    1. Well Eto’o is making zillions in Dagestan now, he doesn’t need a paltry 3 mill. 😛

  16. Rain, rain go away, come again another day.

    It won’t help our cause if it’s monsoon conditions at the Camp tonight. A slight drizzle is okay. Anything can happen in the rain.

  17. Isaiah, sorry about the B Ball game last night.

    All you twitter BFBers should send Isaiah some love. He could probably use some right about now. His beloved team lost to Kentucky. Maybe a good thrashing of some Italians today could cheer him up.

  18. I honestly didn’t see anything last week that would lead me to believe that Barça can’t beat this Milan in our own house on a decent pitch. I’m quite calm.

    Those who are making themselves sick with nervousness need to remember that there are much more important things in this world than football.

    1. NO. NO there aren’t OKAY!!!

      I think I’m going to be sick.

      Should be a cracker of a game! Our grass is 23mm. No jungle machetes needed.

    2. It has all the makings of the game of the year. It could, in fact it should be beautiful. If everybody brings their A game, plays pretty and stays true our style, Xavi’s Achilles stay in one piece (or Thiago fills in for him nicely), we forget how tired we are from fighting the Basques, and there’s no stopping us. I wanna see some “oooooh, pretty” football.

    3. I’m with Blitzen on this one, i have faith in this team, i think we will win convincingly.

  19. Seems like there are two approaches to this game. (ok there are many many more, but for sake of argument two.) They are go with your best 11 players and play them in their best formation OR play the best formation/players to beat the other team.

    The best 11 is probably the simplest…
    (dani) mascherano pique puyol
    xavi busquets iniesta
    messi (cesc) sanchez

    I don’t think that there would be many points to argue there based upon the coaching staffs use of players this season. (I personally would love to throw thiago in, but cesc has vastly more experience and has been used in “these sorts of games” before.) The only real question is how to arrange them on the field. To me it seems obvious, which likely means it’s not or that it’ll prove completely wrong. Dani, in parens, covers the entire right flank. He works well with messi on the right. Iniesta and Keita did not prove to be effective providing width on the left. Sanchez is speedy and disciplined enough to play the wing if asked. (In fact, I think if Pep asked him to defend Ibra he wouldn’t blink. He’d just ask if he wanted him to do anything else. Kid is relentless!) Alexis can give the width and some runs towards the guys with the ball from the backside that weren’t really there in the first tie. I think runs into the box were what Pep was hoping for from Keita, and he almost pulled it off, but not quite. Then there is Cesc, free radical. From my perspective, if not tied down in the midfield, which he needn’t be, his free runs and interchanges with messi could prove vital. The main thing a free cesc would do is create more chaos in the middle for milan defenders. There are so well organized that I see that as a very good thing for barca. Euler pointed out this week that all that is worth much less without tactical width provided by alexis and dani.

    I also think that that lineup is terribly flexible and well capable of doing the defensive chasing back.

    The other approach is the taylor yourself to your opponents, and far more subjective. I think that means using the base 4-3-3, because of defensive solidity and offensive width. I’d say it looks mostly like what was played in Milan, but with a left winger.

    (dani) mascherano pique puyol
    xavi busquets iniesta
    sanchez messi tello

    You could also make an argument for adriano at leftback, but then you start to turn yourself inside out to get the extra man at the back. Busquets did well covering KP and if he is asked to drop back even more to form a back 3 you lose more than you gain from adriano going forward. Also, if you put adriano in you then have to choose between puyol and masche. Pique must play because of his height, and we just hope he puts in a shift similar to the ones he has lately. Also, I don’t think you can afford to have both backs bombing up the line, especially if you can’t rely on robinho wasting opportunities. If pato plays, and I expect him to at some point, which might as well be from the start, you want your fastest defender in too.

    The left wing is the most contentious spot. I read Tello’s play and Pep’s substitution at the weekend as positive indicators for Tello. Tello showed he can and will do the dirty work. He certainly has the speed to do it, and he can create opportunities and score. Not to say he will, but even as a decoy Milan can’t pinch in nearly as much with him on the wing or he’ll run by them. Something that can’t quite be said for cuenca and pedro. But for the game this weekend I would say the start goes to pedro because he works hard, is reliable, and has experience. And let’s be honest, you can’t get much less from the left than they did at Milan. So at least let it be an effective decoy/sacrifice and let iniesta go back to where he can be more effective, always in my opinion, but certainly in this game.

    Finally, I really hope that Dani looks to shoot just a bit more than normal. Caceres showed that somebody from that position can cause milan fits and will get an opportunity.

    1. Doubt Adriano will play. He played a full game on Saturday and was just coming off an injury.

      I love Messi and Cesc in a free role but I don’t think either of them will stay wide for us. And then we’re stuck trying to force it through the middle again. And if the Italians are anything, they’re defensively disciplined.

      Keita has advantages and disadvantages like any player (Well maybe Messi doesn’t count for that rule. He’s pretty much all advantage). But tonight it has to be all about attacking so I’d rather save him for later in the game.

      This is not a game for the babies. Pep has had to blood Tello and Cuenca a little more quickly this year than he’d probably had liked. Throwing them into this game is cruel. But if he plays them, no doubt he has his reasons.

      Our main advantage, and Euler points this out often, is that our players are so talented and versatile that Pep can change tactics and formations (What’s a formation? This is Barca!) on the fly with no substitutions. So I guess it’s all good no matter who he puts out there.

      We’re all gonna die In Pep we trust.

    2. I agree/hope that adriano won’t play.

      If cesc is included in the free role then either sanchez has to play on the left or tello does. I also like Kxevin’s idea of thiago on the left, but just don’t think it’s likely. I would like to see cesc or thiago in as guys who will shoot. Another reason I like tello. Shots aren’t always all or nothing, the can be deflected and/or spilled back into play, as one was last game. I would like to see some shots taken from spots where they weren’t the first game. That could help in a few ways.

      I agree that the fluidity of formation is a major asset. That is the main argument against tello starting. Not that he can’t play elsewhere, but he hasn’t in the first team.

      The difference between 0-0 and a 0-3 win or 2-2 or even a 2-0 loss in milan was minuscule. That said, barca need to score and are at home. So, i expect the changes to be/look offensive for barca and probably a simple swap of pato for robinho. The overwhelming issue to address for barca was width on the left. Pep showed one solution to that at the weekend with tello. The other, in my mind, is sanchez on the left. One allows for cesc to play free in the middle the other doesn’t. My preference would actually look like a 3-5-2 with dani and sanchez as wingbacks and messi and cesc up front.

      it’ll be fun regardless!

  20. I think the worry of a lot of the fans tonight doesn’t stem from the opponent in Milan, but more the thought of being knocked out and not winning the Liga or CL this year (not like it’s a Sunday stroll to win either trophy).

    I, too, feel that we will win, but anything can happen in 90 minutes of football and that’s what leaves me just a bit queasy. I mean, we’ve dropped points this year to much, much lesser teams than mighty Milan.

    Also, every single time we have faced Milan in recent times, I go in thinking Barca will thrash them, no contest. Sure, we have come out on top in both 2006 and for the group games this year so far, but no game has been decided by more than one goal. Not a single one. In the last 5 meetings between the clubs, Barca have won twice (by 1 goal), and drawn three times.

    This, coupled with the fact that this is a knockout game sans away goals to work with, is precisely why I am a bit edgy going into the game. I will always go in to a Barca game thinking we will win, because we simply are the best, but tonight I won’t expect a thrashing. It will be a bonus if it is to happen. Seedorf probably has other plans though.

  21. I’m thinking we’ll see the 3-5-2 at some point tonight…

    Alves-Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta-Sanchez (Dani/Alexis on the wings)

  22. The good news is that Xavi practiced as normal today. The even better news is that most pundits see Pato as a threat, who will play very little if at all, having only practiced once with the group prior to this week.

    For me, Milan is the most difficult opponent remaining in the CL because of the defensive discipline and the abovementioned Seedorf. If we get past them, I just don’t see Chelsea, Bayern or EE being able to take us, two legs or one match. Yes, on any given day anything can happen, but not if we play the game that we can play, and are looking every bit like we will be from here on out.

    Why, oh why, does this team always come into world-beating form in April/May? Yes, I know why, but just a hint of this form a month or so earlier would be making Liga life a lot easier.

    Also, lost in all of the lineup speculation and who might or might not be in defense is the big miss, Abidal. His pace and anticipation as he roamed the left side of the pitch made the rest of the back line better. It’s one reason I think we will see Mascherano instead of Adriano (even though Guardiola has made a history out of confounding logic). If no Pato, it makes Adriano more likely, to be sure. But if Xavi plays, one part of me expects a lineup with Sanchez on the left, Pedro/Cuenca on the right and “tactical discipline, dammit” stamped on their foreheads. If we keep our width, we stretch their back line in the right direction, and then we score goals. Voila.

    But the comment about Adriano having played a full match on Saturday, thus not starting today, is correct. He might get some time if needed, but I just don’t see him starting, which lends even more credence to Mascherano somewhere in the back line, probably central as Puyol plays LB, even though I would love to see Mascherano at LB.

    –The comment about elimination making cules more nervous than the opponent is a good one. Success has been flowing with such abundance that it’s hard to imagine life without it. But it wasn’t so long ago that CL futility was the norm, coming at the hands of United (via Zambrotta giveaway and Scholes hammerblow), then Liverpool. Just remember that sadness teaches us to cherish happiness. Not that I’m making any prediction about today except that we advance, just saying that at some point, this club isn’t going to win everything before it. It is that time, that promises to teach many what it’s like to truly love a club, so much that it doesn’t matter who or what it beats, so deeply embedded in your heart is that club. And then it won’t be the lack of success that rocks, but the buoyant karma that comes from a big ol’ pile of collective love.


    1. Unfortunately, Abidal’s loss is even more apparent in this game than others. He is always able to balance providing offensive support with defensive coverage. You are also correct that his speed would make everyone more comfortable. Huge loss on the field, but still showing up to training. Amazing! Class!

      You are probably right about pato being a rouse, but given what he did in the group phase and how worthless robinho has been, one you have to account for and little to lose for milan.

      The elimination comment is a very valid one. Milan are playing Barca. Barca are playing Milan and against their past success. Far more pressure on Barca. Pep has said time and time again it gets harder each year. I believe this is one of the situations he was talking specifically about.

  23. Before the 1st leg, I said that Keita would be the key.

    Now I’d say that Iniesta is the key. Messi will definitely step up in the 2nd leg. I have a feeling that Tello will start tonight.
    He needs to skin those old men 🙂
    Nesta won’t have a chance to judo kick him!

    1. Can’t see Tello starting tonight. I will note with joy in my heart that Messi’s all-pitch involvement during the Bilbao match augurs well for us. It’s pretty hard to press without your best player, and his midfield presence made our press so amazing. I grinned like an idiot when he fouled that Bilbao player on their side of the pitch, on the sideline.

      As I see it we have three wildcard slots: LB, RW and LW. Sanchez will get one spot, the only question is who gets the other. It’s a big match, so my money is on Pedro, just because Guardiola tends to get conservative with player selection with big things on the line.

      Milan might surprise us and come out attacking like crazy, which would force Guardiola to make lineup changes, as I rather think that he is anticipating that they are going to be defending like crazy, rather than coming out to play.

      Midgets in the box, and chuting the damn ball will be huge today. Rebounds will come.

  24. This match does not require Keita to start, but he will come on if we score 2.

    A big match needs a big lineup. A full-team, all-star kind of lineup, and also its because we have a big pitch with big water spraying. Unlike other pitches. And thus:

    IN XV
    MS CS AX

    This will be enough. Because when Iniesta and Xavi back to their usual partnership, Busquets being the pivot, with Alexis constantly looking to break their offside trap, nothing else matters. You can ignore Messi into the mix coz that will simplify everything. Messi beats everything. But let’s hope he will pick his runs/passes better today!

    Prediction: 3-1

    1. This looks like a very center-focused line-up. I would have preferred Pedro and/or Alexis.

      I hope Cuenca surprises me, didn’t like him at all in most of his matches during the last 3 months or so…

    2. Cuenca and Cesc is an ideal combination. Cuenca is good at crosses, and Cesc is good at heading the ball. Cesc also gives a directness to the game that is missing in the Barca game since Eto’o times. I have found Alexis and Cesc get in each others way, and IMO Cuenca Cesc Messi is the ideal combination for attack.

    3. Ack, neither Cuenca nor Cesc press nearly as much as Pedro or Alexis. But as always, in Pep we trust!

  25. yo, any body gonna watch the game on line?! if so please share your stream and i’d love it with Eng. commentators ;D

  26. I missed a good portion of the first leg due to not being able to find a good, steady stream. Anyone have any reliable ones?

  27. *LOL* Pep never fail to suprise me… Allright then that means Cuenca and Alves adding width and Messi,Xavi y Cesc for scoring Goals.

    On the good Side having freshlegged Alexis,Pedrazo and Tello on bench can be useful later on.

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