El Centrocampista

Barcelona 3-1 Milan: Three Short Observations


Three Man Defence

Pep Guardiola has used a three man defence on occasion at home this season particularly against weaker opposition but this was the first time they have used it against a strong opponent. It allowed an additional man to play in the midfield area which is important against a narrow Milan side who strength lies in the central midfield area and gave Dani Alves the freedom to start very high up on the right.

The three man defence still provided Barça with a spare man against the Milan front two of Robinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Guardiola talked at the press conference afterwards about the flexibility of Alves and how this assist’s the team.


Both Alves but especially Isaac Cuenca played high and wide, staying on the touchline to stretch their opponents. In the first game at the San Siro, Barça were far too narrow probably a combination of line up and pitch quality (remember Arsenal had also struggled to gain any width at the San Siro).

Cuenca had little influence on the game but by being permanently stationed on the touchline it pulled Milan’s back four across the full width of the 18 yard box. The success that Milan enjoyed at the San Siro had been forcing Barça narrow.

With the back four stretched, the midfield dropped deeper to prevent Barça exploiting the gaps in the defensive line.


Recalled to the starting eleven after injury, Cesc Fabregas alternated between playing in and around Lionel Messi often moving beyond him on occasion but also dropped deeper than Messi to collect the ball. This led to Messi being isolated on occasion with Alves and Cuenca very wide. This was the exact problem Barça faced in el clásico last season early on when the role of Cesc was confused and he strayed too far from Messi but too close to Xavi.

Perhaps there is still a little bit more work required on the training pitch to iron out the small problems on how Messi and Fabregas should link against better opposition.


For more tactical observations on la liga and Spanish football, visit Chalk on the Boots and follow on Twitter @chalkontheboots


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