Eye brows were raised when pep started with Keita ahead of Fabregas against AC Milan at San Siro. However, Guardiola had his reasons. The 3-1 mauling by Mourniho’s Inter was playing on his mind. He was happy to play his cards cautiously rather than risk with the same attacking strategy. But tonight Pep will hold nothing back. He will deploy his most attacking formation and employ his most attacking tactics for he senses that a place in summit clash can very well be earned at Stamford Bridge.
The consistent part of Chelsea campaign has been its consistency. Even though results seem to have improved under Di Matteo, the problem still lingers with points drop to West Brom and Fulham, and narrow victory over Wigan. So, the question raises -can they maintain the level of performance that helped them dismantle Tottenham and earn a place in the FA Cup finals?
Playing against Barcelona is physically very demanding, involving shadow-chasing most of the time. So, tonight’s match will demand Chelsea players to be in their physically best form. But the midweek match against Tottenham might have taken its toll on an ageing Chelsea squad. Questions marks prevail over squad’s ability to stay focused all through the 90 minutes.
The key to destabilizing Barca lies in the role of two holding midfielders. Thiago Motta and Esteban Cambiasso played that role to perfection in the famous coup by pressing Barca players much higher up on the field.
However, pessimism clouds over as Chelsea considers its options for those roles – Mikel, though has been in good form in recent weeks, does not have the experience at this level; Essien, whom I personally regard as best for this role, hasn’t been in top form since his return from injury; On other hand, Lampard’s game isn’t perfectly suited for the job.
Far too easy 4-2-3-1
The one consistent part of otherwise inconsistent Chelsea has been its formation. Ever since taking over the reins, Di matteo has been using the usual 4-2-3-1 formation. In all likelihood, he will continue with the same formation. But this not-so-secret formation will play into the hands of Barcelona. It will only make it easier for Pep to firmly decide on his counter tactics.
This weekend Barcelona hosts Real Madrid at Camp Nou in what appears to be the league decider. So, if the opportunity presents itself, it only makes sense for the coach to finish the tie at the first leg. That would allow the players much needed breathing space ahead of the key clash against the arch rivals Real Madrid.
Prediction: I expect this match to be anything but a cagey affair. We will witness a free flowing attacking game from Barcelona, which would leave them vulnerable at back. Chelsea will also employ no-nonsense direct approach using their target man Drogba/Torres and playmaker Mata. Lot will depend on how well Chelsea exploits that defence and converts its goal scoring opportunities. But in the end, I think all-out attack by Barcelona will be too hot to handle for the ageing Chelsea squad.
Scoreline: Chelsea 1-4 Barcelona