BARCELONA

v

CHELSEA

Camp Nou, Barcelona

April 24, 2012; 1845 GMT

***

By virtue of Chelsea’s victory over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge last week, a tie that had once appeared to be heavily tilted in favor of the defending European champions, is now delicately poised on a knife edge. A couple of early goals for the home side tomorrow night will surely put the cat amongst the pigeons, with Chelsea attacking and ergo, leaving space behind them for Barcelona to further exploit and heap misery on Roberto di Matteo’s men. On the contrary, if Chelsea score first, then the mighty Calatans will need at least three goals to progress to the final; a feat not beyond them but will surely raise the anxiety level around the Camp Nou.

Since the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semifinal, both teams have played a game each. Chelsea took on Arsenal at the Emirates and came away with a respectable draw, despite resting eight players that started against Pep Guardiola’s team. Barcelona, on the other hand, tasted defeat at the hands of eternal rivals Real Madrid, thus squandering any remaining hope of defending their La Liga crown.

Barcelona have nothing but the Champions League to play for – win and potentially prepare for one final show down against Madrid; lose and endure the worst campaign under Guardiola. While, Chelsea, whose season was declared dead a long time ago, still have nothing to lose. Who will win in this battle between pure talent and raw determination?

Team News & Tactical Brief

Barcelona

Lionel Messi missed the morning training session as he wasn’t 100% fit, but is expected to be fully fit before the clash against Chelsea.

In the first leg,Ai??Barcelona started with an attack-minded Alves and a more conservative Adriano as their two fullbacks, with Puyol and former Liverpool midfielder Mascherano in central defence. Busquets and Xavi were to control the tempo of the game from the middle of the park, with Busquets playing slightly behind his compatriot. Guardiola deployed Iniesta, Sanchez, Fabregas and Messi in a four-pronged attack, with Iniesta up against Ivanovic on the left flank and Sanchez battling it out with Cole. Fabregas and Messi were given free central roles, as they kept shuttling inward and outward the Chelsea box. Their usual possession-based strategy almost paid off, and if not for poor finishing, this tie could have had a different picture altogether.

At Camp Nou, Guardiola is expected to line his team up in a 3-4-3 formation, with the best possible finishers in the squad – Pedro, Messi and Sanchez – leading the line. Xavi, who has struggled of late going by his impeccable standards, is expected to start in midfield alongwith Iniesta and Buesquets in midfield and Fabregas at the tip of the diamond. Pique, Puyol and Mascherano are expected to complete the starting eleven.

This time round, Guardiola will instruct his wide players, Sanchez and Pedro, to remain wide and stretch Chelsea as much as possible, creating space for their midfielders to operate.

Probable Starting Line-up (3-4-3): Valdes; Puyol, Pique, Mascherano; Buesquets, Ai??Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas; Pedro, Sanchez, Messi

Chelsea

David Luiz is still sidelined with injury, but Didier Drogba is expected to make the starting line-up on Tuesday night.Ai??The Chelsea line-up is expected to remain same, in shape and in personnel at Camp Nou.Ai??Di Matteo had rested eight players against Arsenal from the team that defeated Barcelona. Drogba, Lampard, Ramires, Meireles, Mata, Mikel, Ivanovic, and Cole were all rested to keep all, or most, of them fresh for the trip to Spain.

The back-five will comprise of Cech in goal, Ivanovic at right-back, Cole on the left, and the partnership of Cahill and Terry in the centre. Mikel, Meireles and Lampard are expected to start alongside each other in midfield. Supporting them on either flank will be Ramires and Mata, leaving Drogba on his own inside the Barcelona half. If the big Ivorian doesn’t recover in time, then di Matteo will have to rely on Fernando Torres’ speed and record against the Catalans, rather than the finishing and strength of Drogba.

In the last game, Lampard and Meireles were instructed to remain very close to the defence, leaving very little space between the lines, with Mikel under clear instructions to not let Xavi dictate terms from deep.Ai??Ramires started on the left flank, rather than the right, to take advantage of the space left behind Dani Alves, and Mata was positioned on the right. Both the wide players, Ramires and Mata, were to drift inwards whenever Barcelona had the ball. The formation chosen was a slightly modified version of the 4-5-1 system.

The tactics, which saw the team claim an improbable win, are not only expected to be put into motion again but also embraced more religiously.

Chelsea players, particularly the two central defenders and the three central midfielders, will remain very close to each other with the sole aim of eliminating any kind of space in the centre. The goal would be to make Barcelona attack from wider positions and deliver as many crosses as possible. Chelsea, being physically stronger and taller than their opponents, will then try to deal with the aerial balls or count on their full-backs to preempt the danger. Possession is not something the team from West London will enjoy, but they will not relish that either, as long as they are successful in retaining their shape.

Probable Starting Line-up (4-5-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Meireles, Lampard, Ramires, Mata; DrogbaAi??

Key Facts

  1. Barcelona have drawn their last 3 home matches against Chelsea in all competitions.
  2. ChelseaAi??haveAi??wonAi??their lastAi??4Ai??matches in UEFA Champions League.
  3. ChelseaAi??areAi??undefeatedAi??in their lastAi??6Ai??matches against Barcelona in all competitions.

Stats courtesy Whoscored.com.

TheHardTackle’s Players To Watch Out For

John Terry (Chelsea)

Such have been John Terry’s performances over the last few games, it’s impossible to remember that the Chelsea captain has been playing with two broken ribs all this while. Chelsea are up against arguably the best team to play club football, on their own turf, in front of their worshipers. It would take yet another massive performance from the Chelsea defence, led by Terry, if the Blues are to shut out Barcelona again. Anything less than that would mean curtains for theirAi??resurgence.

AndrAi??s Iniesta (Barcelona)

Can Iniesta hurt Chelsea again?

Iniesta spent most of the first leg wide on the right, where Ivanovic more or less dealt with him. However, whenever the Spaniard drifted inside, Chelsea looked uncomfortable. In the last game, Chelsea stopping Messi and Xavi in the centre became a priority and the position of Iniesta played into di Matteo’s hands. Guardiola would have noticed that and the man who scored the unforgettable goal in 2009 will be asked to spend more time centrally, linking play with his team mates and looking to play in between the lines.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea

Barcelona will win – but, the victory may not be enough. After two back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, Barcelona will come firing at Chelsea, who will have to defend for their lives. The home side have to score, and score they certainly will. However, Chelsea will hang on by the skin of their teeth to book their tickets to Munich. Eventually, it will come down to which team yearns for the win more; which team is more desperate.

TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past

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5 Responses to “Barcelona v Chelsea Preview – Champions League Semifinal Second Leg: The Battle Of Camp Nou”

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  1. vijay says:

    dani alves should start..if chelsea can keep the score 0-0 at half time then i think they have a superb chance of going through…and drogba needs to have another superb game too.. my prediction 3-1 to barcelona

  2. Ankur says:

    I don’t why you favouring barca. I know chelsea will beat them at there lair. KTBFFH

  3. jon gordon says:

    No Alves????

  4. Shivam says:

    This it then. Time to lay to rest so many demons of yesteryears. Go Chelsea! KTBFFH!

  5. deg0ey says:

    You may or may not be aware, but I figured that it was worth warning you anyway, that chelseafc360.com have been publishing your tactical previews without credit. This article is posted in its entirety here: http://www.chelseafc360.com/2012/04/barcelona-v-chelsea-preview-champions.html