Champions League: Barcelona v AC Milan
The cynics, perhaps let’s dub them the realists, will argue it’s all case of ‘too little too late’ for FC Barcelona with regard to putting AC Milan out of the Champions League.
For precisely the last two months there has been a drop in the intensity of Barça’s play, not just defensively with only a couple of clean sheets in that time, but the way in which they can put the pedal to the floor and tear even the best teams apart.
Last week, without a match, interim coach Jordi Roura mixed a little bit of time off with a double stint on Wednesday and pretty high-intensity work during the other training sessions.
This is the moment of the season when, since the beginning of the Guardiola era, the Blaugrana’s form begins to peak for the second time. There is a high priority put on having the turbo-chargers available in November and December, then again in March and April.
However this season the dip in late January, and particularly February, has seemed more pronounced and perhaps the surge will come too late for this tie – particularly taking into account the current scoreline.
Yet the players believe.
Around the training ground over the last five or six days there has been no slumped shoulders, plenty of positive words and two meetings when the coach, but particularly the senior players, confronted problems, solutions, tactics and general ideas of how to eliminate Milan.
But can Barça really shift from a low gear to the type of Formula 1 performance which can make Milan “fearful” as their legendary coach Arrigo Sacchi says must be the case if the home side is to have any chance?
At this stage over the last four seasons Barça have beaten Bayer Leverkusen 7-1, Arsenal 3-1, Stuttgart 4-0 and Lyon 5-2. If that level of performance is about to arrive then, added to the fact that they have distinctly the better XI, then the Catalans will progress. Anything less and the weight of history, no side with a two-goal deficit and no away goal has gone through, will bear down on them too heavily.
If Andres Iniesta scores any time in this match, Paddy Power will refund all losing First Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer, Correct Score & Scorecast singles on the match.