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UEFA Champions League
6 November 2013
• Camp Nou, Barcelona
Referee: M. Mažić
• Attendance: 80517
L. Messi 30', 83'
Piqué 45' (own goal)
That's all from me for tonight guys and girls. Drought? What drought? Messi was the difference tonight as his two goals led Barcelona to victory over a Milan side that in hindsight really should have included Balotelli from the off. Good night everyone!
FULL-TIME: BARCELONA 3-1 MILAN Lionel Messi struck twice for the Blaugrana as they eased to a 3-1 victory over Massimiliano Allegri's side. A penalty from Messi and a Sergio Busquets header looked to have given Barca a two-goal lead at the break before Kaka forced an own goal from Gerard Pique on the brink of half-time. Milan looked much brighter after the interval following the introduction of Mario Balotelli, but Messi put the game beyond doubt late on with a super finish after great build-up play from Cesc Fabregas.
90' + 2'
And there is the final whistle! Barca have won all three points here at Camp Nou!
90' + 1'
Abate heads the ball out of play on the right, which results in a goal kick for Barcelona with just seconds left on the board.
There will be two minutes of added time at Camp Nou.
The clock is ticking on here and with it Milan's chances of staging a late comeback. Barca are seeing this game out confidently by neatly passing the ball between themselves.
Valdes takes the captain's armband for the last minutes of this match as Xavi trudges off to be replaced by Alex Song.
WHAT A TACKLE FROM MEXES!! The Frenchman dives in to stop Messi from bursting through on goal inside the Milan box. The Barca man looks like he wants a hat-trick here!
Neymar makes way to a standing ovation from the Barcelona fans after a quite scintillating performance on the left-hand side. He is replaced by Pedro for the final few minutes at Camp Nou.
Assist Cesc Fàbregas
Goal Lionel Messi
MAGNIFICENT FROM MESSI!! The Argentine looks to have sealed the win for the Blaugrana with a calm finish over Abbiati after playing a sublime one-two with Fabregas on the edge of the Milan box.
Balotelli goes down after clashing with Mascherano. I can't see much wrong with that challenge from the Argentine defender/midfielder. I'm not sure what Balo is complaining about!
Valdes appears to have overstretched his groin while clearing the ball for Barcelona a moment ago. Pinto has sprung from the bench to warm up in case he is needed late on.
Off goes Iniesta to be replaced by Cesc Fabregas. Just the 96% pass success rate for the ethereal midfielder tonight!
Messi drives past Abbiati before being dispossessed by a good tackle from Muntari, which nearly starts a counterattack for the visitors. Mascherano thinks otherwise though, as he crunches into a challenge with Balotelli to steal the ball back for the hosts.
NOW ALEXIS GOES CLOSE! The ball moves quickly from left to right as Neymar flicks the ball to Messi, and he tees it up for Sanchez, but the Chilean cannot add the final touches to a great move as Abbiati dives to his left to keep his shot out.
SO NEARLY A GLORIOUS GOAL FOR NEYMAR!! The Barca man sprints past three challenges after darting in from the left, but when he eventually does shoot, he is slightly off balance as he does so, and the ball curls wide.
That is more super play from Balotelli! The striker controls Abate's pass on his chest 35 yards from goal, before nodding it into the path of Poli. The Italian fails to make the most of it though, and goes crumpling to the floor in search of a free kick.
Zapata reads the play well to stop a Barcelona attack in its tracks after Messi, Sanchez and Neymar had combined in lightning fashion on the edge of the box.
ABATE GETS THAT ONE RIGHT! The Italian has to time his tackle on Neymar to perfection as the Brazilian races into the box, and he does, sliding to put the ball out for a corner.
Emanuelson fires a delicious cross into the box from the left that runs just too far in front of Balotelli, who is being closely marshaled by Mascherano.
This is a very different Balotelli from the one that spent 90 minutes complaining during their 2-0 defeat to Fiorentina at the weekend. It is impossible to predict which version of the striker will turn up for games!
THAT'S SUPERB FROM BALOTELLI!! The Milan forward turns Neymar on the right and skips past the challenge of Mascherano, before sending an inviting cross towards Kaka that is diverted wide by the Brazilian.
Sanchez is booked after catching Mexes inside the Milan half. That booking means he will miss their next Champions League match after clocking up three yellow cards.
Yellow Card Alexis Sánchez
Barca have a chance to work Abbiati as Sanchez breaks on the right, but with Messi and Neymar to choose from he passes the ball straight to Mexes. Disappointing play there from a man who has been in great form this season.
STAT: Balotelli has more yellow cards than goals in all competitions this season (11 yellows, seven goals).
Iniesta forces Abbiati into making a fine save with a curling strike from 25 yards after being teed up by Messi.
Yellow cards are an occupational hazard for players like De Jong. He has just found himself on the receiving end of one after going in heavily on Iniesta.
Yellow Card Nigel De Jong
GREAT TACKLE FROM PIQUE! The Basque centre-back produces a stunning slide tackle to dispossess Kaka as the Milan man tried to ghost into the box.
That's a poor foul from Mascherano! The former Liverpool man has gone through the back of Balotelli twice in as many minutes. He has got to be careful otherwise he'll find his name taken by the referee.
Balotelli has done more in eight minutes than Robinho did in 45. The Italy international has forced Valdes into a save and drawn a foul from Mascherano in the Barca half.
NEARLY AN UNINTENTIONALLY AUDACIOUS GOAL FROM MESSI! Neymar cut inside from the left and hammered a shot goalwards that caught the heel of the Argentine forward and looped over Abbiati. Luckily for Milan the flag was up for offside.
CHANCE FOR MILAN! Poli feeds the ball to Balotelli on the right and he shows no signs of nerves by taking Adriano on and lashing a shot at goal that Valdes has to dive to stop.
Xavi slides a great ball into the path of Sanchez on the right, but the Chile international cannot replicate that with his ball towards Neymar. It goes straight to Zapata and as it turns out the flag was up anyway!
Neymar is really enjoying himself against Abate tonight. A quite ridiculous piece of skill has just seen him evade a tackle from the Italian and drawn gasps of approval from the Camp Nou crowd.
WHAT A TACKLE FROM DE JONG! The Netherlands international dives in to steal the ball from Messi on the edge of the Milan box after the Argentine had exchanged passes brilliantly with Sanchez.
Barca get the second half underway at Camp Nou...
It was a surprise that Balotelli was named on the bench for this game, but he's going to be involved now. Robinho is making way for the Italy international.
That Milan goal came from only their second real attack of the game, but doesn't it set the second half up brilliantly, particularly with someone like Balotelli on the Rossoneri bench. They were outclassed for much of the first 45 minutes but that goal against the run of play has put them right back in it.
HALF-TIME: BARCELONA 2-1 MILAN The home side looked to be cruising into the break with a two-goal lead after a penalty from Messi and a header from Busquets, but Kaka had other ideas. The Brazilian attacker – in his second spell at Milan – rolled back the years to glide down the left and send a cross into the box that Pique deflected past his own goalkeeper right on the brink of half-time.
45' + 1'
And that is the last play of the half. What a time for Milan to score!
Own Goal Piqué
MILAN HAVE PULLED A GOAL BACK!! A fine run and cross from Kaka down the left is turned past Valdes at the near post by his own player Pique! Calamity for the Blaugrana!
The Barca goalkeeper has had a very quiet 44 minutes at the office so far this evening. He is yet to make a save.
Kaka gets the better of his Brazil compatriot Alves on the left, but his pass towards Robinho is not good enough and Pique is able to shepherd it back to his goalkeeper Valdes.
Allegri does not look happy down in the Milan technical area. His side are being outclassed at the moment at Camp Nou. There were shades of offside about that header from Busquets, but on the balance of play a 2-0 scoreline is not unfair on the Rossoneri.
BUSQUETS MAKES IT 2-0!! The elegant midfield anchor nods a superb Xavi free kick past Abbiati after being left all alone by the Milan defence.
STOP IT MESSI! The multiple Ballon d'Or winner shrugs off a challenge from Zapata, which is no mean feat, and attempts to dink the ball over Abbiati, but he reacts well to swat it away from danger.
Sanchez powers down the right for the Catalan giants and bundles a cross into the centre, with Messi his intended target. A vital touch from Mexes takes the ball away from the Barca No.10 though, and the ball runs through to Abbiati.
MONTOLIVO CURLS AN EFFORT WIDE! The Italy international finds himself in space on the right side of the penalty area for Milan after a well-worked move, but his strike is off target and flies harmlessly wide of Victor Valdes' goal.
Messi links well with Neymar 35 yards from the Milan goal and attempts to shimmy his way through the middle of Mexes and Zapata, but the centre-back pairing double up to dispossess the diminutive Argentine.
Elsewhere in Group G it remains 0-0 between Ajax and Celtic at the Amsterdam ArenA.
Yellow Card Sulley Muntari
MUNTARI COULD BE OFF! Milan are losing their composure at Camp Nou. The Ghanaian midfielder flew in double-footed into a tackle on Alves and clearly caught the shins of the Barca right-back. Somehow that is only a yellow.
So all that Neymar pressure on Abate has paid off for the hosts. And now the right-back is also on a yellow card, with an hour still to play. That does not bode well.
Penalty Goal Lionel Messi
GOALLLLLLL!! MESSI ENDS HIS DROUGHT!! The Argentina calmly fires the ball straight down the middle past Abbiati to put the home side ahead.
Yellow Card Ignazio Abate
BARCA HAVE A PENALTY! And surprise surprise it is for an Abate foul on Neymar. The Italian clearly drags the attacker back as he tries to latch on to a high pass from Iniesta and now Messi has a chance to give his side the lead...
STAT: The Rossoneri have not won on their travels this season, losing three and drawing four.
Milan have improved in the last 10 minutes after the Blaugrana had monopolised possession in the opening exchanges. Kaka and Robinho have seen a bit of the ball and a noticeable hush falls over Camp Nou whenever the Rossoneri push forward.
Iniesta dissects the MIlan defence with a glorious through ball to Neymar, but the move loses its gloss when the Brazilian cuts back on to his right and hangs a cross into the box that is dealt with by Mexes.
A first corner for Milan is hurled in by Robinho from the left, but his South American rival Mascherano wins his aerial duel with Zapata to head the ball clear.
WHAT IS ABBIATI DOING?! The Milan goalkeeper attempts to chip the ball over Sanchez with the attacker bearing down on him and gets nowhere near enough height on it. The ball thumps against the former Udinese man's chest and ricochets into the side-netting. Abbiati breathes a sigh of relief!
CHANCE FOR BARCA! Neymar dribbles past Abate and whips the ball across the face of Abbiati's goal, but neither Messi or Sanchez are able to divert it goalwards. That was a close shave for the visitors, any kind of touch and that would have been 1-0 to the hosts.
SANCHEZ IS A COUNTRY MILE OFFSIDE!! The Chilean mistimes his run by a good couple of seconds as he tries to run on to a pass from Mascherano. He was some way offside there as the linesman raised his flag!
Here come Milan! Muntari cuts in from the right for Allegri's men, which makes some space for Urby Emanuelson. The Dutchman sends a fizzing cross into the penalty area after getting past Alves, but it is too hot for Kaka and the ball flies out for a throw on the opposite side.
To highlight that, Pique is currently occupying a No.9 position for the hosts...
It's been all Barca in the first 17 minutes. I can't recall Milan actually completing a pass in the Blaugrana's half.
What a task De Jong has on his hands tonight! The former Manchester City man is chasing shadows on the edge of his own box at the moment, as he tries to stem Barcelona's fluent attacking play.
STAT: Xavi is aiming to win his 80th Champions League match tonight, which would establish an all-time Champions League record. He is currently level with Raul on 79. (via Infostrada Sports)
Xavi slides a pass towards Alves on the right, but Sanchez stops it in its path. His intervention kills the move though, as Mexes is able to do enough to put the Chilean off and his shot drifts wide.
Barca play the free kick short as they so often do, Neymar exchanging a neat one-two with Messi. The former Santos man receives the return pass inside the area on the left, but his first touch lets him down and Abbiati is able to race out and claim the ball.
And there's another Abate foul on Neymar! The referee Milorad Mazic is calling the full-back over for a quiet word. 10 minutes in that is not a good sign for the Rossoneri.
Barca are looking to isolate Neymar against Ignacio Abate on the left-hand side. The Italian full-back has been guilty of a couple of fouls already on the tricky Brazilian. That's certainly a battle to keep an eye on.
Alves and Sanchez have been whipping some decent crosses into the Milan box but Zapata and Mexes have stood firm and been strong in the air so far.
STAT: Kaka failed to win in five visits to the Camp Nou during his time at Real Madrid, recording three draws and two defeats.
Messi sets off on a tantalising run at the heart of the Milan defence, driving past Muntari, then De Jong – but then the unthinkable happens as he loses his balance, allowing Cristian Zapata the opportunity to shield the ball away from danger.
JUST WIDE FROM XAVI! Messi steps to one side to allow the Spaniard a pop at goal, but his curling effort flies a yard or so the wrong side of Christian Abbiati's right-hand post.
Neymar swivels away from a De Jong challenge 30 yards from goal but the Dutchman then catches him, which means Barcelona have an early free kick in a tasty position.
Milan win a free kick inside their own half after a foul from Sanchez, but they cheaply surrender possession as Philippe Mexes drives the set piece straight to Javier Mascherano.
Martino is donning a dashing blue pinstripe jacket for the big occasion tonight. That's a far cry from some of the garish polo tops he's been seen in this season. Hopefully his side will play just as stylishly.
Off we go in Spain. Milan get the ball rolling through Robinho and Kaka...
And there's that spinetinglingly beautiful Champions League anthem. I wonder if anyone has ever had that as the first dance at their wedding...
Kick-off is on the horizon as the players head out onto the pitch at Camp Nou. These two sets of players will know each other fairly well, having clashed eight times in the last three seasons.
Barca, meanwhile, line up pretty much as expected, with the in-form Sanchez completing an attacking three alongside Messi and Neymar. Xavi starts in midfield with Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, as Cesc Fabregas is named on the bench. Jordi Alba is ruled out through injury, so Adriano continues at left-back for the Catalan giants.
How about that then! Balotelli is on the bench for the visitors! I did not see that coming, despite his fairly abject recent performances for the Serie A side. It looks like Milan are lining up in a cautious 4-4-1-1 formation, with Kaka supporting Robinho in attack. It will be very interesting to see how that works for them.
SUBS: Coppola, Constant, Bonera, Zaccardo, Birsa, Matri, Balotelli
MILAN (4-4-1-1): Abbiati; Abate, Mexes, Zapata, Emanuelson; Muntari, Montolivo, De Jong, Poli; Kaka; Robinho
SUBS: Pinto, Montoya, Bartra, Song, Song, Pedro, Tello
BARCELONA (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Neymar
Enough chit-chat for the time being, the line-ups are in, so feast your eyes and minds on those...
Milan, meanwhile, actually are in a bit of a crisis. Allegri and his side left the San Siro pitch to a cacophony of boos and whistles at the weekend after their 2-0 home defeat to Fiorentina, a result which leaves the Rossoneri 16 points shy of rivals Juventus in the final Champions League qualification place in Serie A. They looked particularly toothless going forward in that game, so it will be interesting to see how they line up tonight.
To dismiss the Argentine would be folly though. We need only look back eight months to one of his greatest ever performances, against tonight's opposition – when he scored twice in a 4-0 drubbing at Camp Nou for a reminder of his breathtaking brilliance.
A Lionel Messi goal drought (FOUR WHOLE GAMES!!) has raised questions about the Argentine's role in a Martino side that have increasingly looked elsewhere for inspiration in recent weeks. On Friday it was Sanchez, in the Clasico last month it was the summer signing Neymar that proved the difference.
The Blaugrana come into the game on the back of a hard-fought derby win over Espanyol on Friday evening, which was settled by a goal from Alexis Sanchez midway through the second half. The victory extended Barcelona's unbeaten start to life under Tata Martino to 17 games, but some, somehow, remain unimpressed.
My name is Charlie Scott and I'm the man tasked with bringing you colourful updates from Camp Nou as this Champions League Group H game unfolds this evening.
Be sure to buckle yourselves in, as we're in for a treat tonight. Mario Balotelli, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Kaka, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves and Cristian Zaccardo, all on one pitch – hopefully.
Good evening one and all and welcome to our LIVE coverage of AC Milan's visit to Barcelona, where they face a team their coach Massimiliano Allegri described as "the strongest in the world". No, he wasn't talking about Espanyol.
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