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Champions League • Barcelona 3, Milan 1: Predictable


At some point, playing the same team over and over is going to get stale. And if it wasn’t already for you, this match might have convinced you. Despite being a team in crisis, Milan still trouble Barcelona, even at home, but in the end, Barcelona are always going to come away with the win at the Camp Nou. It’s simply predictable.

Our best 11? 
I don’t even remember how to recap our matches anymore, they just all blur together for me now. But this one in particular, I could have practically written this post before the match and be relaxing right now. It had everything you would expect: Neymar spending quality time on the ground, referees making calls that favored Barcelona, Messi scoring against his favorite Champions League target, Pique scoring a goal for his son, and Milan mustering up the best defensive effort against a team that attacks in their sleep.

To be fair, the referee was well within his right to call the foul that Abate was called for on Neymar in the 29th, which allowed Messi to step up and convert the penalty, even if a Serie A ref might not have. But Busquets was definitely offside in the 40th when he scored on a…. wait for it… header. Milan have been so “lucky” themselves when it comes to ref calls, it’s hard to complain, but it’s also hard not to when Barcelona are repeatedly given advantages by the referee and that tally just never evens out. Not that it was a game winner, though.

He may be annoying, but he's also annoyingly talented.

Any Milan fan who is complaining about reffing, though, has only to look at Messi’s goal in the 82nd, when he just strolled through Milan’s defense to score a beautiful one. Oh, well, at least Kaka technically had the beautiful “assist” on Pique’s own goal. And despite the fact that Barca scored 4 goals, our scoreline was only 3-1 thanks to Pique, so an improvement over last season, when Milan lost 4-0 on the return leg after having defeated Barca at the San Siro.

Despite defensive errors leading to the goals, our defense was better than expected. So many stops by defenders, so many crucial saves by Abbiati. De Jong was just a beast, he looked ready to take the whole Barca team on by himself, only he was obviously seriously outnumbered there. Mexes for the most part showed us what we’ve been missing during his suspension. Several of our players had decent performances. Besides fouling for the penalty, for example, Abate shut down the bratty little Neymar and kept him off of the scoresheet. But in the end, people seem to remember the individual or collective errors more than good performances.

When your best just isn't good enough... even if you've kept Neymar off the scoreboard

Looking at the subs shows one of the problems afflicting Milan right now. Allegri started with Kaka and Robinho, which I might have done in his shoes, too, given their previous strong performances together and Balotelli’s current run of poor form. He rolled the dice and lost, but he made amends by bringing on Balotelli at the half.

The other subs tell a story that is very sad. First Birsa on for Poli in the 74th, and then, most shockingly, Matri on for Kaka in the 84th. That last sub in particular shows just how far Milan have fallen. Particularly with a now retired player watching in the stands that used to wear that no. 9. But then again, I don’t know that the 4-4-1-1 formation was ever going to answer any questions after the 4-3-3 worked so well at the San Siro. It gave the team more the look of molasses, but without the stopping power. Holding Barcelona to only 59% possession means nothing if you allow them 18 shots, half of them on goal, . Milan’s paltry 4 attempts paled in comparison and showed our inability to both defend and attack within the same game.

Abbiati was massive, but you can't stop them all

Something which should have been predictable, but caught me off guard, was emulating the tactics Allegri employed against Ajax of sitting back completely the first half, and then playing more attacking in the second half. While this time, at least he was right that Barcelona are in fact a better team, I don’t like those tactics. I believe you step out on the pitch and play to win for 90 minutes, leaving everything out there.

With all that is going on off of the pitch for Milan, this game was probably actually not so bad. I don’t think Allegri got it right, but it also wasn’t his worst game ever. I didn’t expect a win, even if Pique’s gift did get my hopes up for a draw for a while. In addition to lacking the quality of Barcelona and the years of playing together, Milan lack leadership and a sense of direction, and it’s incredibly hard to win in that situation.

If all of our players had the talent and determination that De Jong has...

Mostly, I found the plot line all too familiar. You'd think we'd learn a thing or two from having played them so many times, but the learning curve is all too soft. Pictures of Barbara Berlusconi talking intently with Pippo Inzaghi in the stands before the match were far more interesting than the match itself. Milan didn’t completely implode, but despite playing better in the second half, they didn’t give us a memorable performance, either. In the end, it was entirely predictable. Which sadly is still better than so many of our performances in the league this season.


This post inspired by the music of The Prodigy


Our next match is
Chievo vs. Milan
Sunday, November 10 • 15:00 CET (9am EST)