2013 is proving to be an unhappy year for Barcelona so far. Knocked out the Copa del Ray and defeated in the league by arch rivals Real Madrid and humiliated in Milan in the first leg of their Champions League tie, it would seem something is very wrong at the Nou Camp. On Tuesday night however, Barcelona have a chance to claw back their season and stamp some authority on the European stage.
Milan go into the game with a 2-0 advantage from the first leg in Italy two weeks ago at the San Siro. The surprise victory that night for the Italian giants wasn’t down to luck but it was perhaps partly down to circumstance. Their cut up pitch is notoriously difficult to play passing football on and contributed to the poor display from Barcelona. But to overlook how Milan played that night and how they shut the Catalans down would be unfair and missing the larger theme of the night and of Barcelona’s season. They seem lacking in direction in leadership. They look like exactly what they are, a team without a manager.
Milan go into the game after a 2-0 win against Genoa on Friday that saw them move to within two points of second placed Napoli (who play Sunday at Chievo) and extend their unbeaten run to 11 games. However the victory came at a cost as both Mexes and Pazzini picked up injuries in the win and both are serious doubts for the game at the Nou Camp on Tuesday. Milan will already be without Mario Balotelli as the maverick Italian forward is cup tied.
Barcelona remain top of the league in Spain and are still very well placed to lift the league trophy despite all the problems that the club have faced in 2013. Their 2-0 defeat of Deportivo on Saturday night may not have seen them hit the heights of old but a solid league win was exactly what they needed before their make or break game against Milan. On Tuesday night we will see history made one or the other. Either Barcelona will overcome a 2-0 deficit or they will be knocked out of the Champions League before the quarter finals stage for the first time since 2007 and mark a serious decline for the former kings of Europe.
For the Catalan giants, no longer is the question on people’s lip, are Barcelona fallible? It now stands at, do Barcelona have enough in them to win the big games? Their defeats against Real Madrid and AC Milan suggest that is a question that is hard to answer with any great certainty. How they perform on Tuesday night and the outcome of that match will give us a far greater indication on the current state of the once untouchables.