A five step guide to beat Barcelona!
“The main problem is to overcome the psychic fear that affects the teams that play against Barcelona and attack them. They have to overcome the fear of Barça.” - José Mourinho
As Neil Lennon and the whole of Celtic park went into euphoria after Celtic’s stunning 2-1 victory over Barcelona on Wednesday night, the most amazing part of the ‘Bhoys’ historic win was the massive difference in ball possession between both sides (89% – 11% in Barcelona’s favour!)
Though Celtic keeper Fraser Forster was undoubtedly the hero of the game with his world-class saves, Barcelona failed to break down the Celtic citadel despite having attacked the goal throughout the game.
The game bought back memories of Barcelona’s Champions league losses against Chelsea (last season) and Inter Milan (masterminded by Jose Mourinho, who coined the ‘Parking the Bus’ phrase after that famous win in the 2010 semifinal!), with both teams having adopted an ultra defensive approach against the Catalans.
Even, lesser known teams like Rubin Kazan and Shaktar Donetsk have managed to beat Barcelona in recent times using a defensive approach, which raises the question as to whether adopting an ultra-defensive approach is the only way to beat Barcelona.
Now though there are numerous teams like Rangers and Stoke City which play a physical and defensive game, day in and day out in their respective leagues, only to be beaten by a far superior team like say Arsenal (barring the odd upset or two), playing ultra-defensively looks like the only logical approach for a weaker team against stronger opposition.
Playing defensively or ‘Parking the Bus’ as it is called, implies a team putting all of its players in its own half to wear out attacking teams like Barcelona and Arsenal.
Though footballing purists have always scorned upon such defensive tactics, labelling it as ‘anti-football’ and against the ‘spirit of the game’, the fact remains that fighting fire with fire against a team of Barcelona’s calibre will definitely backfire badly (Ask Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side which got blown away by ‘four goal’ Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp in 2010!)
The writer, after observing Celtic’s victory on Wednesday night, feels the following ‘Five step guide’ is the key to beat a team like Barcelona!
1. Allow Barcelona possession!
As Lennon and his boys proved on Wednesday night that to win football matches teams need to score as well, allowing Barcelona possession and relying on a strong counter attack must be the first and foremost strategy against the Catalans.
2. The entire eleven must defend well
The next step would be in all eleven players ready to hold on to their positions and defending well (really well!) Chelsea’s win in last season’s semifinal is a classic example, where even creative and attacking players like Juan Mata and Frank Lampard acted as the situation demanded, holding on to their positions and putting up a good defensive display.
3. Try to take Barcelona as wide as possible (they are least effective from the wings.)
Though Barcelona boast of the best midfield and attack in the world, statistics reveal that the Catalans are not that effective when on the wings. Roberto Di Matteo probably took note of this last year, when his Chelsea side pressurised the Catalans in playing wide for the majority of the game, thus leaving them with the only option of passing sideways.
4. Have a good counter attacking game.
This one is a must against Barcelona, as trying to fight fire with fire will definitely result in disaster against the Catalans. Chelsea demonstrated it perfectly with Didier Drogba, as he played his role to perfection, troubling and tormenting Barcelona’s defence whenever Chelsea attacked on the break.
5. Hope for the best!
And last but not the least ‘Hope for the best’, as a little bit of luck is always needed in a game of football!
Though the above ‘Five step guide’ is just the personal opinion of the writer, in the end, football is a game which is to be played instinctively and not with strategies and tactics!