Champions League: How Chelsea can keep Barcelona scoreless at Stamford
Chelsea host Barcelona in the second semi final of this season’s Champions League on Wednesday night (London time), and it is imperative the Blues get some sort of result at home.
If Chelsea are any chance of progressing to the final in Munich on the 19th of May, a win is required. A draw, away goals scored by Barcelona, or a Spanish triumph at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night will surely make the second leg at Camp Nou a mere formality for the European Champions.
Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo needs his team to find the right balance between attack and defence to give themselves a realistic chance of winning this tie.
Chelsea can look at their display against Spurs at Wembley on Sunday as a starting point for this game. When Tottenham had lengthy spells of possession, the Blues defence held strong and spurs were forced into trying their luck from long range as they couldn’t find a way through.
Then when they won the ball they played it quickly up the pitch into space for the midfielders and Drogba in particular.
Although Barcelona’s passing is far more incisive than that of Tottenham, and their possession game far more acute, Chelsea need a similar display at the back to set the platform for the men up front.
David Luiz’s absence may be a blessing in disguise, as his positional play has been under constant criticism this season, and Barcelona’s midfield maestros will no doubt exploit any weaknesses.
Gary Cahill will partner skipper John Terry in the heart of the Blues defence. They will need to be organised to cut out the threat of Lionel Messi and co. However, they must be careful not to focus all their attentions on the little Argentine, as Barcelona have too many quality players that can also hurt you.
Chelsea fans can be positive that they still have players capable of moments of brilliance that can still win them games. Didier Drogba’s goal on Sunday was a stunning piece of skill and power, and proves how much the Ivory Coast captain still has to offer.
Frank Lampard’s free kick was also pure class and set pieces will be vitally important against the Catalan giants.
The short turnaround will leave Di Matteo with some difficult decisions in his team selection. The congested fixture list facing Chelsea towards the end of the season has made his job of keeping the senior players onside somewhat easier. His rotation of the squad has been done out of necessity, resting players as the games come thick and fast.
This could be the perfect stage for Fernando Torres to justify his 50 million pound price tag. The Spanish striker has found some form of late and may get his opportunity up front, with Daniel Sturridge and Soloman Kalou the wide men. Juan Mata will need to be at his creative best in midfield to get the ball to men in space and any opportunities that come Chelsea’s way will need to be taken.
This is not mission impossible for the Blues. They will need to be prepared to spend long periods without the ball, and make sure they make the most of it when they do have it.
Barcelona will be happy to keep possesion and wait for any opportunity to arise, as per their usual formidable style. An away goal would give them a massive advantage heading into the second leg at home, so Chelsea must keep it tight at the back.
Chelsea will need a goal at the bridge to give them something to hold onto at Camp Nou. Mata’s Wembley “ghost goal” would do nicely.