For those who have been living at the bottom of a well and may not know, Barcelona drew AC Milan in the Round of 16 Champions’ League draw that happened this morning. Barça will first face Milan in the San Siro on February 20. The return leg at the Camp Nou will be on March 12. Surely we’ve been here before? Yes, we have, and recently too. It seems like Milan is one of those teams that we always end up playing.
Last season Barça faced Milan in the group stage (2-2 at the Camp Nou and 2-3 at the San Siro) and in the quarter finals (0-0 at the San Siro and 3-1 at the Camp Nou). These were tough, tough games, as Milan were having an excellent season (they ended up 2nd in Serie A behind Juventus), and Barça was plagued with injuries to important players, prompting Pep to experiment with different tactics and formations, with mixed results.
We also played them for the 2010 Gamper Trophy, a silly romp of a game that ended in 1-1 draw and was decided on a very suspect penalty shoot-out. Barça “won” the trophy, then promptly handed it over to Ronaldinho to take home with him, to thunderous applause. Milan also left with a consolation prize in the form of a heavily-discounted Ibrahimovic, only to sell him on to PSG after two seasons.
I will leave others to discuss the ins-and-outs of possible lineups and tactics, and just mention three important points:
The Pitch: After many years of playing on a substandard grass pitch that was difficult to maintain and had to be replaced up to 6 times a year, the San Siro now boasts a hybrid natural/synthetic grass surface (Desso GrassMaster, the same surface as in the Bernabeu). This is excellent news for Barça, as even if the grass is dry or too long, it shouldn’t actually be bald!
The Midfield: Clarence Seedorf, who was sublime against Barça, left Milan at the end of last season, and his replacement Nigel De Jong, is out for the rest of this season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. While I would never wish injury on any player, I must admit I am relieved that our midget army will not be in danger of getting DeJonged!
The Prodigal Son: He’s baaaack!!! Our little Bojanho is all grown up, and all being well may have the opportunity to play against his former team. Won’t that be nice? I’m sure there will be lots of hugging (from the players) and crying (in my twitter timeline) and maybe even some decent football, too. I actually hope Bojan does get to play and does really well—or at least well enough that Milan will decide to keep him permanently.
If we are lucky, Tito should be healthy and back with the team by the time the first game is played. Even if he isn’t physically up to making the trip to Milan, I know that the squad will be extra motivated to get a good result to bring back to the mister.
The full list of the Round of 16 match-ups is:
Galatasaray – Schalke 04
Celtic FC – Juventus
Arsenal – Bayern
Xakhtar – Dortmund
AC Milan – Barça
Madrid – United
València – PSG
Porto – Màlaga