Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Barcelona 3-1 AC Milan analysis: Good performance sees Barca through

A very good performance from Guardiola's men to see them through to the semi-finals.

The home side started in what seemed like a 3-4-3 but in practice (particularly considering their ball possession) ended up being a 3-3-4 in attack. Cuenca started wide on the left, Messi and Fabregas operated as false strikers between the lines and Alves was high up on the right. Their back three was Mascherano, Pique and Puyol.

Milan started as a 4-3-1-2 with Abate at right back the only difference from the first leg.

First half

Barcelona controlled the start of the game with good possession and width. Their width was a key difference from the first leg, with Cuenca and Alves providing it on both sides which made it easier to switch play and stretch Milan's players wide. Barcelona's mobility allowed them to dominate in the middle and Alves and Cuenca's 1v1 ability meant that they could run at the full backs and then move behind or play passes behind or in between the lines to penetrate for Messi, Fabregas or even Xavi on a couple of occasions.

However their goal came from a mistake in possession from Milan and Messi's pace took him into the penalty area. He probably should have shot on goal instead of pulling it back for Xavi but Milan couldn't clear and Messi was fouled in the area. He stepped up and took a good accurate penalty into the left hand corner.

Milan's ideas in attack were to find Robinho or Ibrahimovic with direct passes and both managed to find space well to receive. From there, they could either pass it back to one of the supporting midfielders or play it behind for Boateng or from Ibrahimovic to Robinho.

For their goal, Ibrahimovic was allowed to turn with his back to goal and find a pass to Nocerino behind the defence in space, with Mascherano playing him onside, and the midfielder finished pass Valdes. It was a notable tactic throughout the game for the wide players of their midfield three, Seedorf and Nocerino and later on Aquilani, to move high and on the outside of Barcelona's defence. Playing with a back three for most of the first half, the home side had difficulties in covering this space particularly when numerical superiority was created for the away side in these areas.

Barcelona continued to play with good intensity though even if they had problems with players moving behind their high defensive line. The second penalty after a shirt pull was converted by Messi again and Guardiola immediately changed their shape around - Cuenca moved to the right, Iniesta moved to the left and Alves moved deeper into a back four for Barca, which created a mobile 4-2-4/4-2-2-2 shape.

Second half

Milan started the second period slightly higher up the pitch and again looking to take advantage of Ibrahimovic's movement between the centre back and full back and his strength and height to take the ball down and lay off. Abate was also moving higher from the right and looking to make vertical runs from deep where he wasn't tracked.

However, Barcelona started creating more space between the lines, on one occasion with Messi, Xavi and Busquets coming deep, enticing Milan's midfield higher and then allowing Xavi to make a run between the midfield and defence. More opportunities and situations were now able to be created through quick transitions for the Catalans and they soon took advantage of it.

Their third goal came from one of their most prominent counter attacking moves and one that had been tried in the first half but with no such success. With Milan high up, Barca countered at pace. Messi dribbled with the ball from the right towards the left, Fabregas moved inside high up towards the right, taking the centre back with him and making space for Messi to either shoot or play a wall pass to Iniesta who had moved behind Abate. Messi's shot was blocked but Iniesta reacted well and made it 3-1.

Fabregas moving to the right ceating space in the channel for a pass or a shot. Iniesta moving behind right back.

Both sides made a couple of changes and Barcelona reverted to their traditional 4-3-3 with Fabregas dropping deeper into midfield with Busquets and the substitute Thiago. Thiago himself had a good chance, making a run behind the midfield and linking up with Messi after Nesta had left space behind him at the back.

Milan made a couple of changes with Aquilani coming on for Seedorf and Pato coming on for Boateng and joining Ibrahimovic up front with Robinho using his mobility between the lines and supporting the front two by moving high. Milan's midfielders also continued to move high and outside Barcelona's defenders to support their front men but there were few clear chances created, though a couple of balls behind for Ibrahimovic and then Robinho as a secondary runner caused a problem for the home side.

However Barcelona controlled possession with good width to create space and passing triangles making it difficult for Milan to get the ball and the away side made a number of fouls through tiredness and frustration late on.

The substitute Adriano had a chance towards the end after Mascherano brought the ball out towards the left and enticed Abate to come out of position, creating space for Adriano behind but the left back hit his shot wide.

Barcelona looked threatening on the counter attack with Messi's pace in the middle and supporting players moving forward on both sides. No goals were added late on but neither were they conceded and Barcelona progressed to the semi-finals.


Barcelona showed good control and intensity during the game and their width allowed them to find space in the middle and later on in quick transitions. Milan gave a good account of themselves but couldn't beat Barcelona over the two legs.

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