Feb 20, 2013, 9:31 AM EDT
With the Fascination Factor cranked up to 11 on so many other elements of Champions League – the mighty tussle in Manchester, Bayern breaking out against Arsenal, etc. – poor old bedraggled Barcelona just hasn’t gotten much love.
That will change today at the San Siro, where the Spanish leaders and their stockpiles of dazzle meet AC Milan. Win or lose, this will be a story. Kickoff is 2:45 p.m. on Fox Soccer Channel.
Barcelona has been tipped all along by oddsmakers to find their way to Wembley Stadium – and to lift a trophy there. There’s a real element of history here, too, for the Blaugrana, who have played two previous European championship finals at London’s hallowed ground, claiming glory in both. Barca won in 1992 and again just two years ago in 2011. In that one, Pep Guardiola’s men made stunningly easy work over a fine Manchester United team.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Barca assistant Jordi Roura, speaking at the teams’ official press conference ahead of today’s match in Italy, says the teams are closer in talent than people might think. Perhaps that was a counter balance to everything else said about this one, as few are giving Milan much chance.
So much so, in fact, that AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri took some umbrage, reminding everyone that his team fully intends to show up at the sold-out San Siro rather than just hand Barca the ticket into quarterfinal play. “It annoys me that we are already considered as a sacrificial victim,” he said.
The clubs did meet just one year ago at the very same San Siro, where the Italians frustrated Barca and in a 0-0 draw in 2011-12 Champions League quarterfinal play. Here’s how the Serie A giants did it, with lots of dogged midfield physicality and by “pressing and sitting” in just the right balance.
In case you were wondering about trouble-making man-child Mario Balotelli, who has recently found his way to AC Milan, he can’t play. Doggone shame.
For Barcelona, midfield maestro Xavi appears fit after missing two consecutive La Liga contests. Just in case, here’s how the team might perform without him.
And now we’ve done it! We’ve already gone 250 words and change without mention of him. That would be the fabulous Leo Messi, among the game’s best yet.
Messi just recorded goals Nos. 300 and 301 for Barca while extending his record scoring streak to 14 consecutive La Liga contests. Let that sink in.
The dude is just 25. And yet, if he retired today Messi would do so as the fourth leading scorer in Champions League history. He has 56 goals and could easily climb to second on the all-time list before the current UCL campaign is complete. Heck, considering how Messi has changed the meaning of “plausible,” he could even do it today! The man truly is playing at a different level.
If you prefer to study team stats over individual ones, Tito Vilanova’s side can certainly supply those. For instance: the possession specialists from Barcelona have completed a whopping 85 percent of their passes in six previous Champions League matches this year, and have held the ball for 71 percent of the time in those contest. Find a few other statistical whoppers here.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:49 AM EDT
Son scored in the 12th, 74th and 89th minutes of South Korea’s 8-0 win over Laos in AFC World Cup qualifying on Thursday.
Sep 4, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Week 27 is upon, and though international call-ups have decimated a number of teams, this weekend’s MLS action should still be decent.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:22 AM EDT
Perez says a move that should’ve taken an hour “took eight”, and blasted the Red Devils’ chairman by using examples from 2013.
Sep 4, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
A 6-foot-4 American striker has Providence aiming for another College Cup, and U.S. Soccer fans on notice.
Sep 3, 2015, 9:39 PM EDT
As it turns out, Candy Crush was worth a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that Mel Morris bought his boyhood football club.
Sep 3, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT
The USMNT returns to action for the first time since finishing fourth at the 2015 Gold Cup. Their playoff vs. Mexico is 37 days away.
Sep 3, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
This weekend, referees will begin dishing out green cards, which mean absolutely nothing.
Sep 3, 2015, 4:58 PM EDT
What did we learn from the young U.S. side at Deepdale?
Sep 3, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT
With Olympic qualifying less than a month away, final tune-ups are underway for the US U-23 squad.
Sep 3, 2015, 4:20 PM EDT
Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest comments confirm what we’ve assumed all along: he believes he is immune to criticism.
Sep 3, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Red Devils have ripped apart their title-winning team from 2013. Will things settle down anytime soon?
Sep 3, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
Three options for the starting XI at RFK Stadium on Friday.
Sep 3, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT
JPW and Jenna dissect the Deadline Day dealings.
Sep 3, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT
German champs taking a stand to help the growing number of asylum seekers arriving in Munich.
Sep 3, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT
Who would’ve guessed it, the Gunners are short on strikers…
Sep 3, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT
After his game-winner from halfway last season, Cicerone is at it again.
Sep 3, 2015, 8:40 AM EDT
Klinsmann’s side move up, but remain out of the top 20.
Sep 3, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Chicharito has the following message for United’s fans after five years at Old Trafford.
Sep 2, 2015, 9:57 PM EDT
The NBC Deadline Day show is here in podcast form.
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