Monday, April 2, 2012

Champions League Quarterfinals • Barca vs. Milan Preview: Tuesday

While our league rivals are still patting themselves on the back from a win on the weekend, Milan will be in another country, playing a Champions League Quarterfinals match against The Greatest Team in the World. We don’t have time to sit around and congratulate or condemn our league performances. We live on the edge, day by day, game by game, changing focus when the final whistle blows. For everyone else, it’s midweek, for us, it’s Tuesday.

If you’ll check the Milan schedule, Tuesday is our biggest match of the year. Sure, we faced Barcelona in the group stages, and those were big games. But this is the Quarterfinals second leg. At the Camp Nou. If we win or draw, we move to the semifinals to face Chelsea or Benfica. If we lose, then this Wednesday becomes just midweek for us, too.

Most people are intimidated that we should try to score at the Camp Nou. Not sure why, do they think the goals are also midget sized and thus impossible for normal humans to score in? Because Milan scored two goals at the Camp Nou in September. And one of that goalscoring duo is returning just in time for a potential repeat performance, although he may not even see the pitch just coming back from injury. Honestly, I can’t help but wish it was the other one coming back, because scoring at the Camp Nou is less problematic than not conceding. And even if Thiago Silva did both, I think we’ll miss him most on the defensive end.


Barca on the other hand are going to have to wipe the tears away and put down their tiny little megaphones and stop worrying about the San Siro pitch and worry about what they will do on their own pitch. After embarrassing themselves and even filing an official complaint about the San Siro pitch last week (which everyone knows is a minefield,) let’s hope they get their sporting manners back and give us a great match on a “real” pitch. Besides, shouldn’t they be supporting Abidal in his time of need, not whining about ridiculous things?

On Wednesday of last week, Guardiola fielded Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Piqué, Puyol; Busquets, Keita, Xavi; Alexis, Messi, Iniesta. On Tuesday, he will also have Fabregas at his disposal, so it will be a full strength Barca side that we face. But that’s okay, I like it that way. Think of the rivers they will cry if a dilapidated and injury-plagued Milan knock them out in their house? They certainly won’t have to worry about watering the pitch.

Don't worry, this pitch won't hurt you.

Meanwhile Allegri has seen the return of both Pato and Abate to the available squad for  Tuesday. Add that to another game under the belt of newly returned Aquilani and Robinho, as well as both Seedorf and Nesta rested so as to be fully prepared for this match. Of course, Abbiati had some kind of pain on Saturday, that is worrisome, and our player with back problems, van Bommel, did not reach fitness levels to travel with the team, so will miss this one. But at least we have Antonini and Bonera. (bet you never thought you’d read that, right?) Their form has been nothing short of inspirational right when we needed them most.

So… the funny part where I attempt to predict what Allegri will do, and never get it right. I would go with this lineup: Abbiati; Abate, Nesta, Mexes, Antonini; Aquilani, Seedorf, Nocerino; Boateng; Ibra, Robinho. I know, I don’t like Seedorf at the back, but I just feel like Allegri may not start Ambrosini in one more game, and Seedorf had a game off. This time, Allegri’s got a couple of decent subs, so if he remembers to use them prior to the 87th minute, they could possibly make just the difference we need to pull this one off.

Winning puts us one step closer to sweet, sweet, victory

The game plan is that we have to score. Period. With the away goals rule, and having kept them off the scoreboard last week, a scoring draw sees us through. An actual victory would be priceless, and Allegri might just change the schedule for Wednesday to “celebrate.” Certainly if he doesn’t, I will change my plans accordingly.

We are the underdogs. We are also the walking wounded. We are going into hostile territory, with our only advantage being the away goal rule. Advancing to the semifinals at the expense of Barcelona would be like winning the lottery and a sweepstakes on the same day. It shouldn’t happen, it probably won’t, but if it does…. well there are just no words.

So I say we do the unthinkable, make the impossible happen, and leave these Blaugrana vertically challenged people to water their pitch with their tears. We are Milan. And we’re coming for your title of The Greatest Team in the World. See you Tuesday.

Champions League Quartefinals 2nd Leg
Barcelona vs. Milan
Tuesday, April 3 • 20:45 CEST (2:45pm EDT)
This match will be shown on FSC in the U.S.

This post inspired by the music of ‘Til Tuesday