How Can AC Milan Recover from a Huge Champions League Letdown?

Matteo BonettiContributor IMarch 18, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 24:  Stephan El Shaarawy (R) of AC Milan celebrates after scoring the opening goal his team-mate Mario Balotelli (L) during the Serie A match FC Internazionale Milano and AC Milan at San Siro Stadium on February 24, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Their 4-0 drubbing in the second leg of the Champions League against Barcelona was a crude reminder to coach Massimiliano Allegri that his Milan side still lacked the experience to truly compete at the elite European level.

It was also a sign of hope, as it gave Milan's young players plenty of experience and a lesson for the future. They will improve, and it'll be only a matter of time before the unit as a whole becomes unstoppable domestically.

That's the first step toward recovery. Milan must maintain their place in the top three in Serie A to be sure of a Champions League berth next year. It's the top marketing tool used to lure the hottest young commodities worldwide. 

As it stands, the Rossoneri are third place in the Serie A table, with Fiorentina, Inter and Lazio on their trails as those teams desperately try to make a comeback in the final eight matches of the season.

It's Milan's spot to lose, really. With the return of Giampaolo Pazzini and Mario Balotelli to action, Milan can count on two in-form strikers to relieve M'Baye Niang and Stephan El Shaarawy.

This brings me to my next point: Stephan El Shaarawy desperately needs to find his shooting boots as he's a shadow of the player which led the Capocannoniere scoring charts for a majority of the first part of the season.

Il Faraone looked nervous against Barcelona and was plagued by uncharacteristic heavy touches anytime he got in a dangerous position around the box. Not only that, but his finishing was comparable to that of Elvis Abbruscato.

El Shaarawy was once against a non-factor against Palermo over the weekend, as he was taken off in the second half in favor of Niang. Fortunately, Balotelli once again carried the domestic duties as he scored a brace against the relegation-bound side. He now has seven goals in six Serie A appearances.

Clearly, you could see my excitement after the second goal against Palermo.

More importantly than that, Super Mario's maturation seems to be improving, as he is now closer to his family in Brescia and seems to have found a mental peace—for now.

More than the team as a whole recovering, it's imperative that their star jewel El Shaarawy gets back to that scintillating form which caught the eye of a worldwide audience.