Age Is Actually Only A Number

They say age is no bar in football. For as long as a player has got the legs to dictate terms on the field, it is merely a number, hardly carrying any significance. AC Milan legend Alessandro Nesta pretty much personified these often told footballing philosophies with his unrealistically resolute defensive display against the FC Barcelona attack led by a little Argentine dynamite, who incidentally happens to be the best player in the world. Nesta, for all the class and brilliance he has demonstrated year after year, arguably outdid his own self with that precisely timed challenge on Lionel Messi to stop the Barca talisman from netting in what was perhaps the closest chance for the hosts during the match. Little might the veteran Italian have imagined while executing the tackle that his efforts would actually go on to determine the way the game panned up.

Few players in the world of football garner unconditional respect, no matter which part of the world they travel to play. Clarence Seedorf is one such player. The Dutch veteran, who in the absence of Ambrosini and Gattuso, assumed the armband for the Rossoneri, immediately received a huge round of applause as soon as he led the Milanese pack to the field and the then Madrid, now Milan legend did not fail to entertain both sets of fans with few random moments, exhibiting his sagacious trickeries. Seedorf went on to architect an inch-perfect ball for Thiago Silva to net in the last minute equaliser when Milan were allowed a slightly sceptical corner kick during the stoppage time.

Recapturing The Old Days?

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Two pairs of old legs, which contribute their share to the often criticized average age of the squad, happened to be the two principal factors for the team being able to hold the Catalans in their own den a�� a feat that even the teams who are deemed far superior to the Italian champions have failed to achieve. Under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, Barcelona have remained an extremely dominant force, both across Spain and Europe. More so at Camp Nou, where it is virtually impossible to stop the European champions and the current Milan squad, depleted with injury concerns and aging legs, would have been no onea��s bet to come out at par with the hosts.

It, however, turned out to be a contest where the start and end points were scripted by one of the sides, while the entire procession was dictated by the other. Alexandre Patoa��s run in the very first minute, that put Milan ahead even before many could actually settle, has actually been described by Guardiola as one that could be difficult even for Usain Bolt to match. But it was only a matter of time for Barcelona to find their grip over the proceedings and as soon as they did, they quite expectedly denied Milan any sight of the ball which drastically turned the possession statistics in favour of the home side; the triumvirate of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi began to make Milan look more vulnerable with every single attacking threat being poised.

Messia��s run past three Milan defenders to provide assist for Pedro to find an equaliser once again did a world of good to the Argentinea��s ever strengthening reputation, whereas a breath-taking strike from Villa put Barca on top quite early in the second half. The final outcome that reads 2-2 may be enticing for the Milan fans all across but it must not distract Massimiliano Allegria��s attention from some of the key lessons Milan must make sure they make a note of.

Teama��s Adaptability in a Narrow Shape

Although reports suggest that the lack of width in Milan’s attack may actually cost them a place in the advanced stages of the competition when placed against a physically superior side, it was the disciplined positioning in a narrow structure that allowed Milan to hold Barcelona and deny them the space and time they generally relish.

Allegria��s customary 4-3-1-2 was quite narrow in the central layers of the pitch, but the three-man midfield made up of Seedorf, van Bommel and Nocerino ensured that they ran a great vertical distance covering the length of the pitch every single time Barcelona threatened to roll the ball past Milana��s deep held defensive wall. Mark van Bommel was expected to provide a protective cover to the defensive wall but along with Nocerino, the Dutch captain too was involved in winning back the possession rather than simply reducing himself to be a glorified play-breaker.

van Bommel Must Maintain His High Standards

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All the three Milan players forming the a�?3a�� of the midfield quite impressively tracked back and forward in accordance with the need, and disallowed Barcelona toA�capitalizeA�on their tactics of switching the play from the opposite direction in a matter of micro-seconds. Seedorf, in particular, proactively designed his movements to keep up with Eric Abidal and Dani Alves on the flanks to win the ball, only to lose it again in seconds, owing to the lack of passing options in the closer zones a�� an area Allegri must look into at earliest.

The two center-backs more than made up for the midfielda��s other engagements higher up the pitch, and ensured the Barcelona threats were nullified with text-book challenges that won back Milan the possession. The territorial dominance that the Barcelona midfield enjoyed on the day, should have ideally allowed them conjure up a minimum half a dozen goals but a resolute display of highly classy Italian defensive works from Milan defenders disallowed the Catalans to take the game beyond anybodya��s reach.

Speed Destabilizes Milan; While Skill Does Not

The pretty apparent connect between Milana��s last three Champions League ousters has been the opponent being a physically tougher and faster English side that wastes no time in building up but aims to play the game at a very high tempo, mainly through the flanks. Even Real Madrid demonstrate a similar style of game, since they have built their team around Cristiano Ronaldo and Milana��s troubles against the Spanish giants for the two group games last season are a secret to none.

Guardiolaa��s Barcelona, on the other hand, believe in sticking loyal to their long-nurtured philosophies of La Masia and usually aim at unsettling the opposition defence with their never-ending series of short passes that compel their opponents to fall at the receiving end of Murphya��s law and leave the ties loose, and the moment they do, Messi makes sure they pay dearly.

However, AC Milan is a team that has over the years pretty much exemplified the strength of Italian defence and the presence of center-backs such as Nesta and Silva is a testament to the fact that Rossoneri are not the ideal opposition you want to tactically unsettle. Outrun their languid midfield and beat them of pace, but if you intend to deceive them with your passing intricacies in the centre of the park, Nesta will have an answer for you every single time.

Midfield Still Requires A Connect

Kevin Prince Boateng has been a revelation in the Rossoneri colours ever since his move from Portsmouth last season. The German-Ghanaian midfielder has excellent shooting abilities, boasts of a wonderful eye for goal and at the same time, can double up as a ball winning midfielder who doesna��t refrain from doing a van Bommel or two at times. But that is where it ends for Milan. Beyond the African starlet, Allegri does not really have a player in his roster who could effectively establish a linkage between the midfield and the attack. Milan have lost out on Pirlo as well and with that, the team doesna��t have anybody who can provide the long balls of utmost precision in the final third.

This makes Boateng the most important midfielder for the Milanese setup and any prolonged injury to him would cause immediate problems against teams of equal or superior credentials. Nocerino, from his no-nonsense display yesterday, pretty much matched to the pace of Barcelona full-backs but the ex-Palermo midfielder is not exactly the guy to have that attacking instinct of Pirlo. Milan may well have to play physically stronger opponents in the further rounds in the competition for which taking charge of the game would be ever so important, as those teams are pretty difficult to contain. Given the crop of players, Allegri doesna��t have any particular luxury to switch his formations and the over-reliance on Boateng to find the creative spark may soon be an area of concern for the Scudetto holders.

Build The Team Around Pato & Not Ibrahimovic

Allegri must clearly identify where his teama��s potential future lies. Ibrahimovica��s a�?heroicsa�� on the big games are no more veiled and more importantly he is not getting any younger. The Big Swede is very vital to Milana��s plans to defend the league and reclaim European superiority but building a team centralizing Ibrahimovic may hardly be a wise mana��s advice.

The Future Is Here!

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Alexandre Pato, on the other hand, has more than proved that he has the temperament to rise to the biggest occasions, finding the nets consistently during the important matches in the league and at places such as Bernabeu and Camp Nou too a�� where even monsters fear to tread, not to mention. It is only justifiable to claim that Pato is the future Milan aim to realize, and Allegria��s focal point must remain atA�maximizingA�and grooming the young Brazilian.

It was a long night at Camp Nou, and it must not fail to bring with it a whirlwind of better things, transpiring a future that has been promised for a long A�time, but has consistently failed to materialize.

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3 Responses to “FC Barcelona 2 – 2 AC Milan: The Way Ahead For Milan Post A Historic Night At Camp Nou”

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  1. hari says:

    The Gods of defense have shown what they can do yet again. Somebody on this same site did not give milan a chance in this game. The result has clearly proven them wrong. Nice article by the way. barcelona just struggle to say the least against italian teams. This is where they look extremely unidimensional as they cannot adapt according to the game. They more often than not turn things to the way they like, but in games like these they are more often than not are rendered clueless. I am very confident that this milanese side will beat barca at the San Siro. Not to forget Ibra and robinho will be back for that clash and ibra will have his vengeance.

  2. Tanay says:

    Brilliantly written Parth. Couldn’t agree more!

  3. C.K says:

    Milan were lucky, they baisicly had nothing the entire game and I don’t really see how Milan-fans can feel proud. Sure, they drew against mighty Barcelona but the way they played was incredibly boring. When I watch fotball I want to see 2 teams play fotball, not one team only defending