Will it be Nesta’s night again in his personal duel with Messi?
Legendary defender’s performance will determine who progresses
Much of what is written about tonight’s Carles Puyol-tagged game of the season between Barcelona and AC Milan will be about Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but the piece’s true protagonist is Alessandro Nesta.
Yes, the 36-year-old defender who ITV started their first-leg coverage practically mocking, armed with the assumption that old age guaranteed a Messi chasing, before being forced to sheepishly acknowledge his excellence after an inspired display.
The former Lazio centre back has faced Messi three times this season and the only time that the world’s best player scored was from the penalty spot with no Nesta to casually poke the ball away from his feet.
If Nesta can complete a quartet of Messi-repelling masterclasses at the Camp Nou tonight, he might be able to sign off on such a high, with some rumours suggesting that he will retire this summer rather than risk a season of shame like Fabio Cannavaro.
Others claim that he will link up with Juventus’ band of Meeelan rejects returning to prominence, which includes Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Matri. Yes, Marco Borriello is there too, but he hardly meets the second criteria.
The goalless draw last week showed that, contrary to all expectation, the Rossoneri can contain Barcelona without Thiago Silva. On the evidence of the increased pressure in the final 15 minutes after Nesta hobbled off though, they can’t do it with both absent.
Luckily for the visitors, he has travelled and is fancied to start, cranking up the difficulty of the task awaiting Messi as he seeks a first goal from open play against Italian opposition. Naturally, given that statistic, he is 1/3 to net at any time.
Ropey prediction time. Despite a Wigan-versus-Man-United-levels-of-bad record of erroneously tipping Serie A sides to impress in Europe, Whiteboard can’t resist another dabble with the draw a barely believable 5.8/1 on Betfair.