Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Milan vs Barcelona (A preview and an idea)

Tonight's second leg Quarter Final between Barcelona and AC Milan is probably the most hotly anticipated of the ties due to the sides involved and the 0-0 draw in the previous leg at the San Siro. There are quite a few interesting stories surrounding this tie, from players facing each other having previously played together in Aquilani-Mascherano and Fabregas-Flamini, to players returning to their previous club, such as Ibrahimovic, Zambrotta, Maxi Lopez and Van Bommel.

The picture above shows the result of the Champions League Final in 1994 in which Pep Guardiola played and Carles Busquets, father of Sergio, was on the bench for Barcelona. The current Milan side is, as has been discussed in many other places, a team lacking the ball-playing talents of recent Milan sides featuring the likes of Pirlo, Kaka, Seedorf and Rui Costa in the same 11. Although Seedorf is still at Milan his current role is more limited and he plays deeper than he has done previously, in combination with this the current Milan side relies more upon the physicality of its members than it has done in the past. For this reason, I think Milan can learn a lot from the result of the side circa 1994 and the defensive "catenaccio" tactics they employed.

The Barcelona formation is expected to be relatively predictable with their style and ability allowing them to impose themselves upon other sides and force them to react, while most are expecting Milan to line up in their regular 4-3-1-2 formation. I think that, with 1 goal forcing Barcelona to score twice, Milan would do well to make a slight alteration to their regular system and select Emanuelson ahead of Robinho and alongside Boateng in a 4-3-2-1 formation behind Ibrahimovic. This extra presence in midfield would aid Milan in breaking up and resisiting the Barcelona possession by adding the energy of Emanuelson as well as allowing Milan to employ one of their favoured modes of attack in allowing Ibrahimovic to drop deep and make himself available to receive the ball leaving Boateng and, in this case, Emanuelson to move forward to become the main goal threat like they did in this goal against Arsenal. Also the additional player in midfield would relieve the pressure on Boateng to provide a link to the attack as well as allowing the band of 3 to remain deeper and restrict Barcelona's ability to counter attack.

In conclusion, I think this game may well be quite tense and uneventful with Milan defending deep and unwilling to risk going behind when they know 1 goal would put them in an excellent position, especially when they pose a threat from set pieces. I would like to see Milan recognise this by selecting Emanuelson ahead of the lower work ethic of Robinho, although it may well be difficult for Allegri to make such a decision.

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