Barcelona are not only capable of turning around their Uefa Champions League tie against AC Milan, but I also believe they will do it—and if they do it, the title deserves to head to the Nou Camp.
There is no shame losing the San Siro against one of Europe’s most successful clubs in terms of internationally recognised trophies won, but the manner of the defeat made it one of world football’s true shocks.
For the first time in recent history, we saw a team shut down Barca completely, four-time world player of the year Lionel Messi was made to look ordinary, and the whole team looked powerless in away not seen very often.
What was so socking even more than the score line was the fact that despite bossing possession with 73 per cent, the Spanish giants, described by many analysts as probably the best club team ever, only had a single shot on target for the entire 90 minutes!
Xavi and Busquets each managed over 120 accurate passes but Jordi Roura’s team could not turn that possession into clear-cut chances. (Note: Assistant coach Roura has been filling in for Tito Vilanova, who is recovering from cancer treatment).
Questions are being asked whether Barca, great as they are, can overcome the elite Italian defending and turn the tie around in the return leg.
Milan are a very good side, and they showed that by the way they suffocated Barca without necessarily parking the bus the way Chelsea did last season and Inter Milan three years ago; it was a tactical master class and great discipline. It was true team work at its best.
In his post-match press conference Roura sounded bullish, “We have total conviction that in Barcelona we’ll go through.”
“This is a bad result but this team deserves for people to believe in it. We are completely convinced: we’ll be at home, with our pitch and our fans. It is not impossible: we can turn this around perfectly.”
Stats show that Barca have only won three of their last 14 knockout games away from home in the Champions League - they drew and lost at the Emirates in 2010 and 2011 but still went on to win at Nou Camp and qualified.
Only on eight occasions in Champions League history have teams progressed in a knockout tie having trailed by two goals or more after the first meeting. Ironically, Barca are the only team to do it twice.
They came back from 3-1 down against Dynamo Kiev in 1993 in a first-round knockout tie to win 4-1 at the Nou Camp and also ended Chelsea’s first Champions League campaign, thrashing them 5-1 at home in the quarter-finals in 2000 after losing 3-1 at Stamford Bridge. You can say, history favours them in a way.
While Barca are in serious danger of elimination, archrivals Real Madrid are also sweating over their progress after a 1-1 first-leg draw against English side Manchester United.
The last time both Real Madrid and Barcelona failed to make it to the last eight was in 2007, when Milan lifted the trophy by beating Liverpool in the final. Is history about to repeat itself?
Barca had a bad night in Milan and the hosts were excellent. However, Messi and Co will be much improved at their intimidating Camp Nou where they will have a go a real.
If they get a goal in the first 15 minutes, I’d expect them to go on and finish the job, but, first they must stop Milan from not only getting the ball but most importantly, scoring a third goal.