Chelsea- Barcelona preview

28 04 2009

Chelsea vs Barca

Notwithstanding Barça’s recent draw with Valencia, the in-form Catalans take a devastating composure into this Champions League semifinal 1st Leg at Nou Camp. Barca fans suggests the team doesn’t even need to win anything to establish itself as one of the finest football side ever — so beautiful is their play.

It’s true, given how mercilessly Barça disassembled Bayern Munich in the CL quarterfinal and then how clinically they dispatched Sevilla in La Liga last week. Pep Guardiola’s Barça are playing in that special place called The Zone.

What we see from Barça is a sublime creativity in the final third supported by such efficiency on the ball from Xavi & Iniesta that they hardly look like they are working … except perhaps when Thierry Henry repeatedly falls over.

Barça’s efficiency is worth special comment. They trap close, like they’ve magnets in their Adidas, and already in position to do something positive. First-touch is sublime. I believe the team has learned this in training from Iniesta; he’s raised the bar and this unique body-balance on the ball has caught on around the squad. Moreover, Guardiola has them exploding into purposeful action at the rare times they lose the ball.

What Barça did to Bayern & Sevilla in equal measure was to demoralize them so completely in this endeavor that in the odd times Barça’s opponents got the ball they were consumed by utter hopelessness; their individual & collective energy seemed to leave them. I think Chelsea will be fine until they recognize their bind: the only way to stop Barça is to foul them and Chelsea cannot then escape their own artlessness in the final third. This is what’s causing Guus the most worry.

Previous meetings between Chelsea & Barça were typically 1-2, 1-1, 0-1. I think these legs will be much the same with Barça doing just what is necessary to win. Chelsea will stack their strong back-Four along the 18 yard line and be largely effective keeping Barça from getting behind them. (Chelsea will sit the sieve-like Ashley Cole, who is suspended; Bosingwa will play instead at Left Back. Even though Jose’ Bosingwa is right-footed, Messi is a lefty playing on the right side — they match up as well as Chelsea could ever hope.)

Chelsea will foul a lot. So Barça’s goals, consequently, will come from set-pieces and distance … of which they are supremely capable. When Chelsea learn their lesson and stop fouling, the goals will come from artwork inside the box.

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