With Part I concluded (you can read it here), we move onto Part II of The Crossfire.
Is Fernando Torres, who has a great record against Barca, Chelsea’s trump card in tonight’s match? Who should Chelsea be wary of apart from Messi? How do you stop Barca from scoring away goals? Denise Hone, founder of www.thechelseablog.org, and totalBarça’s Enrique answer these questions and more in our second part of The Crossfire.
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And so it begins.
What do you think about the current Barcelona side and the praise that they have received from the footballing world?
Denise: Well, they can play a bit, can’t they?
So is Messi the best player currently?
Denise: Not just currently, the best ever. Phenomenal player.
Fernando Torres has a great record against Barça. Do you think he will play a significant role in these two fixtures?
Denise: He’ll play some part, how significant it’ll be I’m not sure. Drogba has to be first choice simply because his experience makes so much difference in this sort of game, he’s an absolute beast on his day and we need him to get at the Barça defence from the off.
Enrique: Possibly. Torres is a very good player, despite his struggles in front of goal this campaign. This game could well fire him up, not least because Del Bosque will definitely be watching and his place in Ukraine/Poland is under massive threat (if not lost at the moment). With Chelsea to use counters as their main attacking ploy, he may just fancy his speed against Mascherano and the depleted numbers at the back.
Which other Chelsea players do you think will be most dangerous/influential to this game?
Denise: For influence, Frank Lampard and John Terry are the obvious, purely in terms of their leadership. JT hasn’t been 100% fit for a few weeks and he struggles for pace anyway but what he lacks there, he makes up for in terms of his level of commitment and determination. Frank Lampard likewise, hasn’t had his best season but he’ll stand up to be counted in a game like this. As for danger, Mata’s the man I could see getting at the Barcelona defence.
Enrique: I have little doubt Chelsea will sit deep and counter. Therefore focused games with no mistakes from the Chelsea backline will be key. Ivanovic, a player I rate highly, will be a tough opponent for whomever takes the left side. I believe Drogba should start, as he has always been a thorn in Barça’s side, so he could be a key player if given the chance. His ability to get the ball with his back to goal, do some fantastic turn and bang it in is something that worries me. Ask Spurs fans.
Which players from this Barça side (apart from Messi) do you think are most dangerous/influential?
Denise: I’m not sure any of them are without danger but for me, it has to be Iniesta – in spite of (and sometimes as a result of) his infuriating ability to get officials on-side.
Enrique: Messi is going to be manmarked heavily over the games, which will open space for others and that will be influential. Luckily Barça have a lot of match winners, but no denying this season Messi has quite clearly been THE match winner. Every player in the team is important and have their key roles. Mascherano and Puyol (likely at left back) are vital to monitor counter attacks, Alves is critical for width, Busquets recycles the game better than anyone, Xavi is the brain, while Iniesta has magic in his boots. Barça is a team, not a collection of individuals, therefore all are dangerous and influential.
What do you think is the best way to stop Barça?
Denise: Replacing the back four with a bus seems as good an idea as any. Seriously though, if we’re going to get through the game, man-marking Messi is essential. Obviously it’s not all about him, our defence will need to be a bit smarter than that but the more we can cut off service to him, the less he can punish us.
Enrique: Barça approach each and every game the same way, they go out there to control possession, attack, and win. Pep may think of a few specific details, particular match ups, but on the whole it’s an ingrained tactic and philosophy.
Chelsea should be prepared to run a lot to close down spaces very fast and get in the Barça’s players’ faces. Then when given possession try to use it as effectively as possible, particularly looking for the empty space that will appear at the back when Barça commit 9 players forward to attempt to break through the “10 man defense”. Precise passes and intelligent runs to get past the defense is essential.
Looking towards the game, are you confident of victory?
Denise: The eternal pessimist, I wouldn’t even be confident against Wolves right now. Barça should be easy though (kidding!)
Enrique: Being a lifelong culé, the classic Catalan pessimism is rife. I don’t get overly confident, but I do believe Barça are the better team with better players and over 2 legs will be victorious. Pep has given us no reason to doubt him over these years so I won’t start now.
What do you think the starting 11 will be for both the sides for the semi-final?
CHELSEA: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Essien, Meireles; Ramires, Lampard, Mata; Drogba
BARCELONA: Valdes; Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Sanchez, Messi, Pedro
CHELSEA: Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Mikel, Lampard, Ramires, Meireles, Mata; Drogba
BARCELONA: Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Puyol; Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas; Messi, Alexis, Iniesta
Your predictions for the game.
Denise: Anyone who reads The Chelsea Blog knows my footballing superstitions don’t allow for predictions.
Enrique: Chelsea – FC Barcelona 1-1
FC Barcelona – Chelsea 3-1