Night of regret as Milan fall at Barcelona

Posted by Sumeet Paul

With a switch to a 4-4-1-1 system and the omission of Mario Balotelli from the starting line-up, things didn't particularly look promising for Milan at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night. However, it was a night of regret as the Rossoneri eventually succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona.

- Report: Barcelona 3-1 Milan

While the tactical set-up and game plan was essentially to stop the Spaniards with an extra man in the middle and to play without a recognised striker, it resulted in a reserved performance in the first half which invited pressure.

That pressure eventually broke through with Neymar earning a dubious penalty which Lionel Messi dispatched with aplomb. In addition, there were also doubts over the second goal with suspicions of offside on Sergio Busquets' headed finish.

However, there was an element of threat from Milan on the counter attack throughout, and although it required a large slice of luck for Gerard Pique's own goal to breach the Barca defence, there was more urgency in the second half especially with the introduction of Balotelli.

Massimiliano Allegri undoubtedly had his reasons for dropping the striker, and had he obtained a positive result without him it would have been labelled as a stroke of genius.

However, there is a fine line between being complimented for such a brave decision and the experiment back-firing, and there will inevitably be critics who will question the decision to leave the Rossoneri's best player on the bench in such an important game.

Given Balotelli's disappointing performances recently, it was perhaps the correct decision, as Allegri insisted in his post-game interview he made the club hierarchy aware of his choice prior to kick-off and did it for the good of the club and the striker.

Nevertheless, by deploying an additional midfielder, it allowed Kaka to neglect the defensive duties he was shackled by in the reverse fixture, giving the Brazilian more freedom to attack in the final third along with Robinho.

Balotelli's introduction ensured Milan were a bigger threat thereafter, with Riccardo Montolivo bemoaning their failure to make the most of their chances as, surprisingly, they created a great deal in an end-to-end game at times.

For all of their impressive defending, trips to the Camp Nou will invariably offer so many scoring chances. It was essential that Milan were clinical, but Kaka's miss with the score still at 2-1 perhaps signalled an opportunity lost.

In contrast, there are several positives to take from the game as the Rossoneri now switch their attention to Chievo this weekend which is a must-win game.

Their aspirations of advancing from the group were boosted by Ajax's win over Celtic in Amsterdam, and the requirements are now simple moving forward with games against both.

Allegri's side currently have a one point buffer over their Dutch rivals, with Celtic a point further adrift ahead of their meeting at Celtic Park on November 26 which will be fundamental for Milan to progress with the assumption that Barcelona will win both their remaining games too.

Progress is very much still in Milan's hands, but they will need two big performances to ensure they seal their place in the knock-out stages.

What did you make of the performance in the loss to Barcelona?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty.

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