A trip to Munich for the UEFA Champions League final awaits either FC Barcelona or Chelsea, who meet at Camp Nou this morning in the second leg of their semi-final. Join us bright and early from 4.45am AEST for minute by minute commentary.
They might have chased their opponents for long periods of the ninety minutes and managed only one shot n target, but Chelsea managed to grind out 1-0 victory in the first leg at Stamford Bridge by completely and utterly stifling Barcelona.
Through Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel and Raul Meireles, Chelsea managed to lock up the space in which Lionel Messi loves to drop into to receive and attack, and were able supported by strong performances from centre-half pairing John Terry and Gary Cahill.
The expectation is that Chelsea will not be able to get away with a similiar gameplan against a relentless Barcelona in front of nearly 100,000 parochial Catalans, but if Saturday’s El Clasico was anything to go by, the Blues might be in with a chance.
Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid employed similiar lock-down tactics in the middle of the park and it paid divided, with the ball often falling outwide to Dani Alves and Christian Tello, who were unable to find the incision into more dangerous areas in the front third.
On top of that, Barca’s much-vaunted trio of Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi and considerably poor games by their standards in keeping with a tired, jaded expression that the side seems to have worn through the second half of the season.
But with their La Liga title defence in ruins, retaining the Champions League trophy is the only thing that Pep Guardiola’s men can salvage from the 2011/12, barring the far-less-important Copa Del Rey in May.
It would be no surprise to see the game unfold in a similiar fashion to last Thursday. Barcelona will monopolise possession, Chelsea will be compact and content to sit deep.
If Chelsea are able to replicate that defensive performance then they might be on their way to the Fussball Arena in Munich. If not, it might be a long night for the English team.