Are Barcelona really the best team in the world? For some, that sort of claim rings inherently false - the defending European champions don't even appear to be the best team in Spain. They're nowhere near Real Madrid in La Liga, so how can they really be the world's best?
In response, the easy answer is that the dropped points in the league aren't an accurate reflection of Barcelona's talent, and that perhaps the team as a whole is a little bit jaded. Motivation, apparently, is the key to explaining their lack of form against the smaller clubs, the one Jose Mourinho's Madrid are routinely annihilating. Barcelona's play in the big matches are cited as evidence that they're essentially the unstoppable force we've gotten used to over the last few seasons. All they need is to care.
That's the view Arron Duckling over at Barca Blaugranes subscribes to, and that means that he believes Pep Guardiola has a critically important role in the match. He needs to get his side to treat UEFA Champions League quarterfinal opponents AC Milan seriously at the San Siro in order to get Barcelona to produce the sort of football that can kill off the tie in the first leg:
Clearly, Pep feels that motivation is the issue, and his quotes in the pre-match press conference hint to me that he wants the team to send him a message tomorrow. As per usual, he will give out the ingredients for success; it’s down to the players to cook up a treat on the San Siro pitch. With the title race becoming a factor once again, it would be so easy for the players to get carried away with their own hype. Even though they have been playing badly over the course of the season, they are still in with a shout of winning the title, surely they can get away with an average performance here and there?
Not so, Pep says "the only sure thing is that if we don't play two extraordinary games we won't make it to the semi-final". Once again, I agree totally, but I have faith in the team. They have been in this situation plenty of times before, they know what it will take, and I think they will deliver.
In all probability, Barcelona will deliver. Their domestic form could be better, it's true, but they absolutely demolished a good side in Bayer Leverkusen in the Round of 16, and there's no reason to think they can't beat Milan today. It's simply a question of whether the Serie A leaders can keep it close for later.