2013 marks the sixth year anniversary of AC Milan’s triumph over Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final in Athens. Milan celebrated the victory or rather revenge over Liverpool and in doing so captured their seventh all time trophy in the competition. However this is not our main focus.
What is important, or moreover shocking, is that that very campaign, the 2006-2007 Champions League campaign, marked the last time Serie A sent more than one team in the quarterfinals of the tournament. A footballing-frenzied nation rich with history and success, such as Italy, should not this let this happen to them. But evidently it did. During the past five years, only one Italian club has progressed to the quarterfinals, the exception being the 2008-2009 season where the quarterfinals were not home to a single one.
However, I believe that the tides are turning. This is the season where Serie A gets the chance to redeem themselves in the Champions League. I believe from here on out, Italian clubs will be continuously posing a threat in the competition to the extent that they have done so in their glorious past.
The two remaining Italian clubs left in the competition are strong ones in Juventus and Milan. Juventus went undefeated last year in Serie A to claim their 28th Serie A trophy and currently sit atop of the league, begging for a club to compete with them. Milan is currently undefeated in 2013 while performing fantastically under their heavily criticized manger, Massimiliano Allegri, who has bit off all the pressure to lead them where they are now, currently in third place. Let’s now discuss their second leg matches.
After defeating Celtic by a heavy score line of 3-0 away from home at Celtic Park, Juventus have planted a foot in the door to the quarterfinals. Although Juventus didn’t maintain large amounts of possession or opportunities to score, they finished their chances, and that’s what counts (GIF Marchisio’s goal versus Celtic)
The well-oiled engine that has been Juventus over these past two seasons hasn’t seen these great heights since before the Calciopoli scandal broke out in 2006. The last time the Turin club participated in the Champions League was in the 2008-2009 season, but was eliminated in the first knockout round. Their second leg match looks pretty straightforward, as Juventus should comfortably pass through to the next round as they take on Celtic at home.
However the key to breaking this Serie A quarterfinal curse truly lies in the hands of Milan, who are faced with the daunting task of holding onto a 2-0 goal lead at the Camp Nou against Barcelona. (VIDEO Muntari goal)
Coming to the match Barcelona was heavily favored, many claiming that we are witnessing the best Barcelona side ever. Milan on the other hand fielded one of the more weaker squads they have ever produced with respect to the great Milan sides of the past; this is a Milan team that were once as far down as 15th place in the league table and are currently 11 points off top spot in Serie A. This somewhat illustrates the topsy-turvy season Milan are going through.
Massimiliano Allegri demonstrated his tactical genius by devising a game plan that suffocated Barcelona’s passing lanes, which effectively shut down the Catalan side and reduced them to a single shot on goal during the entire 90 minutes. Silvio Berlusconi called for a man-marking of Messi during the match but Allegri was brave enough to go one step further to formulate his own plan. The result was a huge success.
In order for Milan to effectively break this curse and advance, they must display the same tactical organization and defensive tenacity as in the first leg. Along with this, the Milan players need to perform to their highest standards and hope luck is on their side. But it wont be easy. Barcelona will surely come out with a tweaked game plan and will look to shoot more. Once again, they only tempted Christian Abbiati once during the entire match.
However if Milan is successful in their conquest, they will be filled with passion and confidence to continue their success story of 2013. If not, they will be absent from the quarterfinals once again. Prior to last year’s appearance in the quarterfinals, they had not featured in it since winning the competition back in 2007.
Not only do these clubs have a good potential of making it to the quarterfinals, achieving a feat that hasn’t been done for years by more than one Italian club, but also of reaching the latter stages of the competition and who knows, maybe even winning it.
Sources: UEFA, Google Images, 101 Great Goals