Chelsea were supposed to get knocked out at the hands of Napoli on 14th March, 2012. Benfica were supposed to pose a stifferAi??challenge in the quarter-final stage. Barcelona were to demolish, embarrass them at Stamford Bridge last night.

Last night, Chelsea stunned the world of football, not for the first time in Champions League this season, by defeating the reigning European Champions, Barcelona. Before the match, coach Roberto Di Matteo had admitted that if Chelsea are to reach the Munich final, they have to produce not one but two perfect games. And half the job was accomplished on Wednesday night.

Such was the character, resolve, determination and concentration of this Chelsea side that a team that had scored an astonishing 167 goals, a player who had scored 63 goals this season couldn’t breach their defences – no matter what they did, no matter how well they played.

Chelsea Strategy & Gameplay

How They Started

Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Meireles, Lampard, Ramires, Mata; Drogba

In the absence of the injured David Luiz, the Chelsea backline comprised Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry and Cole, as was expected. After a fairly bombastic performance against Tottenham, Drogba started ahead of Torres. However, between the attack and defence, the personnel chosen, the positions they were deployed in, and the formation of midfield, raised quite a few eyebrows right from the onset.

Mikel, Meireles and Lampard started alongside each other, right in front of Cahill and Terry; Lampard to the right and Meireles to the left of the Nigerian. Furthermore, 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.

Ramires started on the left flank, rather than the right, to take advantage of the space left behind the more adventurous Dani Alves whenever an opportunity presented itself, and Mata was positioned on the right, but much, much deeper than what the Spaniard had grown accustomed to thus far in his career. 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.

Chelsea had a clear strategy – they wanted to remain calm, retain their shape come what may; even if it came at the cost ofAi??possession. The home team had as many as five players playing very close to each other in the centre; Mikel, Lampard, Meireles, Cahill and Terry covered for each other and prevented the technically gifted Catalans from passing their way through the middle. Ergo, Barcelona had to look towards the flanks, where Ivanovic and Cole did exceptionally well to keep Iniesta and Alves in check. Dani Alves was forced to put in an uncharacteristically high number of crosses, which played into Chelsea’s hands.

Before and after they scored, Chelsea were prepared to soak all the pressure and remain without the ball for considerable amount of time. They, however, kept looking for opportunities to break and feed Didier Drogba. Right at the stroke of half time, Lampard dispossessed Messi in an advanced position to launch a quick counter-attack. The midfielder spotted Ramires’s brilliant run down the left and found him with a precise pass. The Brazilian then raced towards Victor Valdes’ goal and delivered a perfectly-weighted pass for Drogba to bury past the Barcelona goalkeeper.

Barcelona Strategy & Gameplay

How They Started

Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Xavi; Iniesta, Sanchez, Fabregas, Messi

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 or cutting inside from the right. Fabregas and Messi were given free central roles, as they kept shuttling inward and outward the Chelsea box, alternatively.

The world expects Barcelona to dominate possession, and to nobody’s surprise, they did just that. Away from home, Barcelona maintained an astonishingAi??79% ball possession with a passing accuracy of 93%. There were periods in the game when Chelsea couldn’t even touch the mysterious pass-masters from Spain. Such superior was their gameplay at times. Without the ball, the distance between the furthermost attacker and the last man in defence was so little that on one occasion, Ashley Cole was adjudged offside just around the half-way line.

Barcelona did most things right, and if not for a life-on-the-line performance by Chelsea, the result could have been different. Their finishing let them down though, with Fabregas and Sanchez particularly being guilty of not finishing off moves. They struck the post twice, and out of the 26 shots that they took on goal, on and off target, 10 were remarkably blocked or intercepted by the Chelsea defence.

How is the tie poised?

By virtue of their performance in the first leg, Chelsea have turned a previously one-sided looking contest into a battle between equals.Ai??The most important aspect of this result, even more than the win, was the fact that Chelsea didn’t concede an away goal. If Chelsea score again at Camp Nou, Barcelona will have to put three past Cech to progress.Ai??Di Matteo will again deploy similar tactics, with Chelsea looking to maintain their shape and hitting the home team on the counter. On the other hand, the game plan for Guardiola’s men will be to continue to do what they do best, albeit with better efficiency.

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5 Responses to “Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona – Post Mortem: Dogged Drogba, Compact Defending Stun Catalans”

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  1. Ankur says:

    Loving RDM’s tactics. He was very clear defend when you defend….stick to your zone….no need to rush….catalans will lose ball themselves after too many unwanted passes….and they did….lampard fetched away the ball from non other than messi….passed to ramires….xavi was there but can’t run fast bcoz there is one and only one blue kenyan….run with the ball inside the D….passed the ball to drogba who was surrounded by Puyol, Mascherano….deadly drogba scored with one touch….what was victor doing lol….barca made a 5 second rule but yesterday chelsea taught him a lesson that they are not the king of this world…..KTBFFH

  2. Adi says:

    They need to park a double decker bus at camp nou to go to he finals !

  3. Shivam says:

    This win was long overdue( you know what chelsea fans mean by that :D), although no time to rest on laurels i suppose. But no matter what, I ll keep faith in a team everybody was willing to write-off as too old. Ha! The smile on my face ain’t willing to go away. Hell yeah, We so deserved this win and we got it.
    Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

  4. Harsha says:

    Wonderful performance by the entire team..Torres should play at Nou camp nd use his speed to get the better of Barca defense…Waiting for tuesday night..GO CHELSEA