The Breakdown: AC Milan vs Barcelona

AC Milan followed the Chelsea/Celtic blueprint and pulled the fangs out of the Barcelona attack to register a momentous win at the San Siro on Wednesday night.

Andres Iniesta of Barcelona competes for the ball

By FOX Sports Staff

It was a three-step process: 1) Mark Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta out of the game 2) Have men constantly behind the ball and play a deep defensive line and 3) Carry out rapid counter-attacks and exploit any mistake by the Barca defence. 

The home side managed two second-half goals in this manner and ensured that they finally defeated the Catalan giants after seven games without a win. 

FOX Sports takes a look at the game and outlines the tactics that worked for Milan and what didn't go according to plan for the visiting side. 

AC Milan

Defence

It was a pretty tight ship at the back and Philippe Mexes was the leader who led by example. Ignacio Abate and Kevin Constant curbed their attacking tendencies and stayed behind and ensured that Barcelona's wingmen did not go on the overlap and swing in any dangerous crosses. 

Zapata's anticipation was also of the highest order and the ex-Villarreal defender readily cleared any low crosses drilled into the middle. Moreover, the defence was remarkably accurate with their clearances as they regularly picked out Giampaolo Pazzini and Stephan El Shaarawy thereby quickly putting their opponents on the backfoot. 

Christian Abbiati's reflexes were only tested late in the game as the Spanish side abandoned their tiki-taka philosophy and attempted to go for broke. The custodian was ready for the task, though, and was calm throughout the match. 

Abbiati - 7 | Abate - 7 | Zapata - 7.5 | Mexes - 8 | Constant - 7

Midfield

Much like the full-backs, the central midfielders opted to play as makeshift defenders during the game and were often ensconced within their own half. Massimo Ambrosini barked orders to his team-mates and ensured that they occupied areas of space in order to make it difficult for the likes of Messi and Iniesta to go on their adrenaline-powered runs. 

Kevin Prince-Boateng was the only midfielder given the license to play in an advanced position and he acted as an effective link to the two forwards. He was also solid with his dribbling and rarely lost the ball under pressure. 

The Ghanian international earned a goal for himself by unleashing an unstoppable strike just inside the box after Riccardo Montolivo's attempt from distance was deflected into his path. 

Montolivo - 7.5 | Ambrosini - 8 | Muntari - 7.5 | Boateng - 8 

Attack

Both of the attackers performed their duties admirably but it was El Shaarawy who was the star of the night. He made quick decisions and demonstrated a great degree of creativity with his passing while also showing commendable bravery in taking on the entire Barca defence on his own. This direct approach paid dividends later on as it meant that the Barca defenders were far too absorbed in marking the 20-year-old in order to notice the midfielders sneaking up behind them. 

It was also his brilliant lob that freed up Sulley Muntari and the ex-Portsmouth midfielder made no mistake with the opportunity. 

Pazzini, meanwhile, put in a diligent display and was a constant participant in the various aerial battles. 

Pazzini (off 75') - 7.5 | El Shaarawy (off 88') - 8

SUBS

Young M'Baye Niang would have surely increased his stock in European football as he showed great confidence during his brief cameo. He managed to outpace, outmuscle and outwit Jordi Alba and his subsequent pass to El Shaarawy was neatly passed along for Muntari to score Milan's second goal. 

Niang (on 75') - 7.5 | Traoré (on 88') - N/A

Barcelona

Defence

There was little communication between the defenders and they were often all over the place. It didn't help, either, that captain Carles Puyol suffered an injury midway through the game and was also repeatedly beaten for pace by the younger Milan attackers. 

Dani Alves was a frustrating sight down the right as his crosses were exceptionally poor. Moreover, he can be considered as being culpable for the two goals as he did not make the effort to close down Boateng and Muntari. 

Valdés - 6 | Alves - 5 | Piqué - 6 | Puyol (off 88') - 6 | Alba - 6.5

Midfield

Passing the ball around until a gap opened up was basically the tactic that the midfield obsessively pursued but it clearly did not work on the night. Milan maintained a firm grid of defenders that prevented any gaps and the midfielders were repeatedly harried off the ball whenever they got close to the penalty box. 

Moreover, they were also complacent within the game as they did not track back to help out the defence. Instead, they were overly confident with their passing abilities and continually sent in low through-balls, some of which were sent from as far back as the halfway line. 

Busquets - 5 | Xavi - 6 | Fabregas (off 62') - 5

Attack

It was a game to forget for Barcelona's Argentinean superstar as he was not allowed the space nor the time to go on any excursion with the ball. Such was his frustration within the game that he even had to track back and collect the ball at the halfway line in order to secure some space to carry out his favourite tricks. 

He was not supported well by the duo of Pedro and Iniesta either as they were not allowed to cut inside and were pushed out wide by their markers. 

Messi had a poor game overall as, much like the others, he repeatedly lost the ball and made poor passes on the night. 

Messi - 6 | Pedro - 5 | Iniesta - 6

SUBS

Alexis Sanchez was brought on after it was clear that Fabregas was more busy making wayward challenges instead of contributing any useful passes. The Chilean was not particularly effective as a replacement, though, as he could not get into promising areas nor was he able to make any defence-splitting passes. 

Sanchez (on 62') - 6 | Mascherano (on 88') - N/A 



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