Believe!

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona have nothing to lose on Tuesday when AC Milan come to the Camp Nou for the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie.

If you analyse the situation carefully, the appalling 2-0 defeat at the San Siro came after one of the worst performances in recent years and, at this point, you could argue the damage is already done and all the Catalans can do is take risks to put it right.

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Speaking ahead of Tuesday's match, interim manager Jordi Roura explained: "The important thing is finding the right balance between intensity and our eagerness to win, and not confuse it with being too hasty. We need to find that middle ground. We have to have cool heads and not lose our focus at any point in the game. Two goals can be scored in a few minutes or over 90."

While I agree with the essence of the manager's message, the blatant truth is that the Rossoneri are a highly competitive side who are fully capable of reducing spaces around Lionel Messi if no changes are introduced. In other words: a degree of patience and control are obviously needed but, perhaps most importantly, it is an increased sense of urgency, aggressive pressure and blistering runs into spaces that will make the difference.

Let's face it: It is highly unlikely that Milan will come to the Camp Nou to do anything but parking their rocky bus again and try to hurt Barcelona with quick counter-attacking runs whenever the Catalan defenders are out of position.

As a result, I believe Roura should opt for a 3-3-4 formation with the following starting 11: Victor Valdes; Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta; Alexis, David Villa, Messi, Dani Alves.

Let's analyse each line in more depth:

-- When attacking, the pace and desire of both Alexis and Alves should open up the pitch from the wings enough to stretch the defence as wide as possible. As for the striking position, I feel the inclusion of El Guaje would pull markers away from Messi and give them both some more space to either combine or create opportunities for each other.

-- I feel the midfield is a no-brainer: The inclusion of Busquets as a holding player would ensure those all important triangulations continue to happen, providing the more attack-minded Iniesta and the patient, brainy Xavi the support and freedom they need to develop their game.

-- I foresee the three-man back-line would definitely benefit from the leadership of Pique in the central spot, the discipline and desire of Puyol on the right and the speed and freshness of Alba. Sure, an away Rossoneri goal would make qualification that little bit harder, but nothing major was ever achieved by not taking risks.

In the hypothetical case that the Blaugranas got an early goal (or, hopefully, a couple of them!) then Alves could slot back into his more usual position, with the team returning to the classic 4-3-3 shape.

If the team was still struggling to find that second or third goal in the dying stages, then the cheekiness of Cristian Tello or the unpredictability of Pedro could add that little bit extra to unbalance the game.

If Barcelona can ignite the game by passing the ball quickly, chances will come. If the defence can maintain the discipline for the entire match, the clean sheet can be achieved.

Time to trust!

Wanted: True supporters

Reading and listening to what fans are saying in the build-up to the match, one may think the Blaugranas have already been knocked out of the biggest competition in European football. Those who support other teams seem eager to see Barcelona lose. Disappointingly, there are also some Cules who are far too pessimistic and can't see a way for a comeback.

Fortunately though, there is still a large section of supporters who believe that this group of players has what it takes to prove doubters wrong.

It is in difficult moments like this that the squad needs to feel their fans are right behind them, not just when trophies are lifted under clouds of blue and maroon confetti. It is crucial games such as this that differentiate those who truly love the club no matter what and those who will consider getting off the bandwagon at the slightest adversity.

Luckily, the devoted 90,000-strong Camp Nou crowd won't hesitate to carry the team forward. In fact, anyone who brings any negativity or doubts the tie can still be won should stay home and consider giving their season tickets up so a true Blaugrana can take the spot in the stands instead.

This is not the time for picking battles or blaming anybody but rather an opportunity to show the best group of players the Camp Nou has seen how grateful Cules truly are for everything they have done for the club over the years.

Can Barcelona score three goals in 90 minutes (or 120 if needed)? Absolutely. Whether the team will actually be able to do it or not is a matter which only time will tell, but I am confident the team will leave their souls on the pitch and make true Cules proud.

Not long to go now: Som Un Equip!

Have your say

I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.

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