By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
It used to be a classic. Barcelona and AC Milan are the two most successful sides of the Champions League era and when these great clubs were drawn together in the group stages of the 2011-12 competition, there was genuine excitement as Europe's elite pair prepared to go head to head for the first time since 2006. But just over two years and seven games later, Rossoneri versus Blaugrana has become somewhat stale - an oft-repeated fixture over which nobody seems to get enthusiastic any more.
Tuesday night's game had its moments. Milan started well and made the most of some dreadful defending from Barcelona to take the lead through Robinho. Lionel Messi, he who once struggled to score against Italian teams, then hit back - and although both sides missed chances after that, there was an air of inevitability about the final result.
|BARCA & MILAN: SEVEN CHAMPIONS
LEAGUE MEETINGS IN TWO YEARS
|Milan 1-1 Barcelona||Oct 22, 2013
|Barcelona 4-0 Milan
||Mar 12, 2013
|Milan 2-0 Barcelona
||Feb 20, 2013
|Barcelona 3-1 Milan||Apr 03, 2012|
|Milan 0-0 Barcelona||Mar 28, 2012|
|Milan 2-3 Barcelona||Nov 23, 2011|
|Barcelona 2-2 Milan||Sep 13, 2011|
Recent meetings, however, have lost such sparkle. In total, Barca and Milan have played 16 times in the European Cup or the Champions League, with seven of those coming since September of 2011. Sometimes, there really can be too much of a good thing.
The first two meetings in 2011-12 definitely delivered: Milan scored early and late to claim a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou in the first match, while Barca won a thriller 3-2 in the Group H return. But a dour draw with no goals came next in Milan as the Catalans complained about the pitch in the teams' Champions League quarter-final first leg later in the same season. Pep Guardiola's side won the return 3-1, but only thanks to two penalties - one of which was highly contentious.
The two teams were getting to know each other only too well by now and the contrast in styles hardly made for fantastic football matches, either. Latterly, the games have seemed subdued, the tempo too slow, the pattern predictable. Milan, in truth, do not currently possess the quality to match Barca's and it was a cautious and reserved Rossoneri side which managed to exploit a chaotic Catalan outfit (with Jordi Roura standing in for Tito Vilanova as coach) in last season's Champions League second round. But instead of making something of their two-goal advantage in the second game at Camp Nou, the Rossoneri were on the back foot from the outset and lost 4-0. A memorable comeback it had been by Barca, but neither match had been a classic. In fact, when the two teams were paired together in the draw for that last-16 tie, all the headlines went to the mouth-watering match-up between Real Madrid and Manchester United instead.
Just a couple of years ago, Barca versus Milan would have been considered just as exciting as that fixture, but whereas Real and United had not met for a decade, the Catalans and the Milanese have played each other seven times now in quick succession. The expectation has all but evaporated; food for thought, perhaps, for Uefa, if European football's governors genuinely consider a continental Super League to be a viable option for the future. Because this particular fixture, once a classic match-up, has lost much of its allure over the last few seasons. And there isn't much chance to recover it now either, because the two teams will meet again on November 6.
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