Friday, 24 April 2009

A game plan for Chelsea to beat Barcelona

author: Gabriele Marcotti
source: The Times

date: 15 April 2009

Does last week's Chelsea-Liverpool game at Stamford Bridge show Chelsea can trouble Barcelona?
First of all, everyone is revelling in what they're calling a phenomenal game. Yes, it was an exciting match, but there were so many mistakes that it was actually a badly played game for long periods.

The first thing Chelsea have to do is cut out the kind of errors that we saw that night. They had a lot of issues: the defending for Dirk Kuyt's header and for free kicks and Petr Cech's form. If you give up four goals at home against a Liverpool side without Steven Gerrard, you have a problem.

Are there any areas in which Chelsea will have an advantage over Barcelona?
They will have a tremendous advantage at set-pieces. In Didier Drogba, Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry and Alex, Chelsea have some outstanding headers of a ball. Apart from the central defenders Rafael Marquez and Gerard Piqué, and Yaya Toure, Barcelona have few aerial threats. So, Chelsea's fourth-best header of a ball is likely to be marked by a considerably lesser player in the air.

Will Chelsea struggle in terms of possession?
Barcelona are very good at regaining possession without committing fouls, while Chelsea do not have many runners who can attack a defence and draw the free kicks that I mentioned they need. The answer, though, might be Michael Essien.

I want to see him let loose on Barcelona. Give Essien the freedom to attack and he will give the team great energy. Between now and then Guus Hiddink may have to tinker a bit and find a way to get Essien in a position where he can hurt opponents. Hiddink was right to use him in front of the back four against Liverpool, but it's time to set him free.

So you don't expect Essien to man-mark Lionel Messi?
I don't buy into man-marking Messi, I don't know anyone who can do it. If you put Essien on him, you deprive the team of an outstanding player and you still have the problem of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o. I think you have to defend against Messi zonally.

How do you stop Barcelona's front three?
Messi, Eto'o and Henry base their play entirely on movement and are not a huge threat at set-pieces. So, to some degree, Chelsea can afford to be a little more physical and give a way a few more free kicks against them. That three tend to stay forward, relying on the ball coming through Xavi and Iniesta in midfield. Chelsea need to cut off that supply. They need to outmuscle both players.

The other way Barcelona attack is through Daniel Alves running from deep, creating a devastating partnership with Messi on the right wing. Alves is a lot more difficult to stop because he just gets the ball and runs at the defender. You can only foul him so many times before the yellow cards come out. If Chelsea are going to focus on marking one player, it's Alves.

Who could do that job?
Possibly Florent Malouda. He has had an indifferent time throughout much of his Chelsea career, but he is an extremely intelligent footballer and would be able to fill such a tactical role.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Barcelona are overrated
Barcelona the team to avoid in Champions League
The weak points of Barcelona


Iason said...

Bayern Munich has even taller players than Chelsea and they had a few free kick set pieces but we dealt with them. Gerard Pique and Abidal need to play because of their height and Puyol can jump like a monkey also.

fcbee said...

Malouda on Alves, you can't be serious. I would put Essien on Alves, so he's also around on that wing when Messi gets passed the left back whoever that will be.

I think free-kicks are indeed the most dangerous thing, they have some strength there that is difficult to defend. Even masterbrain Benitez didn't find anythinhg. This together with Drogba holding the ball and laying off for Lampard (and Ballack) who come from midfield. But the last thing would be more important in the return game.

Marc4barca said...

"That three tend to stay forward, relying on the ball coming through Xavi and Iniesta in midfield." this guy really don't know barcelona.. thierry hanery and eto and messi goes back to midfield and retrive te ball wen it get tough for iniesta and xavi and we see eto and henry in defence quite alot... everyone these days think barca front players just ball watch. as for essien i don't see one holding midfielder or lb stopping barca front three, this ain't a video game, chelsea's midfield and defence all have to be at their A game and i think this guy is underestimating us at set plays, we score them when needed lol except freekicks(plz sign a freekick taker this summer).

Scano814 said...

I am a cule, but in contrast to some of the other comments, I think this is a thoughtful, reasonable and fair article...I don't think we have had to face two box-to-box midfielders in the mold of essien and lampard yet(if they give essien some freedom to roam). I feel that this clash will be won in the middle and it will require great effort from yaya to shackle lamps. The key to reducing essien's threat is to reduce his chances by making him chase us around. Fortunately, I couldn't pick two players who can do this better than Xavi and Iniesta.

Scano814 said...

Also, another thing to note is that Drogba creates chances for himself and only needs a few mistakes to punish us. Unlike our offense, Drogba can still thrive on depleted service(Arsenal-Chelsea)...our offense is more built upon maintaining possession and feeding thruballs to our stikers with passing triangles. If we play our game and keep possession high in the field we can prevail...this will also allow us to have puyol + pique/marquez zonally/double-mark drogba. I'm not so concerned about chelsea's widemen. I think we can deal with the strength/aerial ability of Drogba with the attributes of our centerbacks but...but none of our center backs are particularly speedy(puyol is no youngster, pique and marquez have never been fast) so intelligent positional play between the 2 cbs will be key as well. If we play OUR game WE WILL WIN, but historically chelsea has been one of the only teams to have the ability to disrupt this and really get under our skin. Liverpool was successful too to some extent, but man u. didn't even try they just took advantage of a half-chance... scholes could have easily sliced his goal wide last year in the semis. The past is neither here nor there, this Barcelona has more grit and determination than years past with the flare to match.

BarcaFan(BiH) said...

I'm nervous because something tells me that Hiddink is going to surprise us with something that we don't expect. I think he will play negative football (much like Espanyol did when they beat us at home 2 months ago) to frustrate us and keep us from playing our game. There are so many ways that he can tweak his formation, he is going to come up with something very interesting. Experienced observers of the game know that Guus has the pedigree to outwit even a team that is as good as ours.
Add to that the many weapons they have in Lampard, Essien Drogba, and set pieces and this will not be as easy as we think. We will have to be on our toes and the fact that we have improved defensively while getting into the habit to grind out results comes at the best time possible. This will be one ridiculously tense two-legged titanic match up.
If we win by two goals, we will prevail and make it to Rome. However, should we only beat them by one goal or less at home, it will be very, very difficult in London. The first game will be crucial and might well decide to which side this tie is going to tip. However, all of this is theoretical. It will be the most nerve-wrecking game Barcelona fans will have witness for a long time.

Custom Search
Custom Search