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Is Barcelona's castle starting to crumble?

By Chris Higham




MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 20: Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona compete for the ball with Ignazio Abate of AC Milan (L) during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between AC Milan and Barcelona at San Siro Stadium on February 20, 2013 in Milan, Italy
MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 20: Andres Iniesta of FC Barcelona compete for the ball with Ignazio Abate of AC Milan (L) during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between AC Milan and Barcelona at San Siro Stadium on February 20, 2013 in Milan, Italy

The Catalan style of play has been developed to emphasise the skills taught to the young talent at Barcelona's Academy, La Masia.

It involves a high percentage of possession and a large number of passes. The play tends to zig-zag in front of the defenders in an attempt to find a hole. Many times, the penetration comes directly through the middle as their star player, Lionel Messi, runs at the center of the defence and hooks up with Andres Iniesta and Xavi in short passing spurts.

It is well practised and has been perfected to a high degree of success. However, what has been seen in several defeats now is the common denominator with all the teams that have managed to beat this great side. That factor is a solid defencive front casting a wide shadow across the field restricting space to their midfielders. Call it "parking the bus" if you like, but it has proved successful on more than one occasion.

Inter Milan, Chelsea, Celtic and now, AC Milan have all employed a strict, disciplined approach to Barcelona's style and all have had great success. I cast my mind back several years ago when Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger suggested that his team would "pass Barcelona to death".  I think we all know how that turned out for Wenger. Defensive posture is the only way to beat them.