How can Chelsea stop Barcelona and Messi?
There was a time when Premier League teams used to dominate the Champions League but over past few years, they have struggled in Europe's elite competition.
But this year, 5 teams have reached the round of 16 and it looks like that Premier League dominance is back in this tournament. Out of these 5 teams, Chelsea have one of the toughest matches ahead of them as they face Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.
Barcelona are having one of the greatest runs in the history of the club as they remain undefeated in La Liga. Stopping Barcelona is one of the biggest challenges for La Liga teams nowadays and Conte certainly will be looking to let this not affect his team.
Despite Barcelona's winning streak, they have looked vulnerable at certain times and Conte would be looking to exploit their weaknesses. Conte's future is in jeopardy at Chelsea and this match is the perfect opportunity for him to grab the spotlight again. So let's analyze how Chelsea can stop Barcelona.
While Barcelona are eyeing a treble', Chelsea are struggling in every competition. Due to Chelsea's bad run of form, most of the Chelsea fans are concerned that Barcelona might defeat them at their home ground but there is one weakness of Barcelona which Chelsea can try to take advantage of.
If you have watched Barcelona in the La Liga, you must know that most of the goals that have been scored against Barcelona came from counter-attacks and this might be the key for Conte to win the game.
Chelsea might have struggled against some opponents but their best performances of this season have come against Spanish sides. One of these performances came against Atletico Madrid when the Hazard-Morata chemistry stunned the Spanish giants.
Subsequently, Morata got injured and Chelsea have slipped up. But now that Morata is back in the team, Conte would be hoping for more of the same from Hazard and Morata. Barcelona's style of play always depends on possession and passing.
No matter how intensely their opponents press, they always try to keep the ball and keep looking for the opportunity to find a hole in the opposition's defence but at times, this possession play has backfired for Barcelona.
When Barcelona have the ball in their possession, the team moves forward and eventually they all camp in the opposition's half.
So when Barcelona are building the play against the opposition with their defenders also coming high up the pitch, if Chelsea can start a counterattack, then there is a very high probability that they will score a goal.
Morata has displayed his speed in his recent games and so, he should be the one to start the counter-attack in the wide areas while Hazard will run through the middle to receive the pass from Morata.
Should they man-mark Messi?
Lionel Messi has scored against almost every club he has played against but Chelsea is one of the teams that are still on the list to cross for him. Against Chelsea, Messi has taken 29 shots but none of the shots has found the back of the net.
Despite the fact that Messi has never scored against Chelsea, we should never underestimate him because he is the main playmaker for Barcelona this season and that's why he is leading the assist chart in La Liga with 11 assists.
In the starting line-up, Messi will be upfront with Suarez but we all know that he will drop deep to get the ball and once he has the ball, he can turn the game on its head in an instance. So one way to stop him might be man-marking him but Valverde knows how to bypass this as we saw in their match against Girona.
Girona utilized a man to mark Messi in their recent meeting. Be that as it may, while Manchester City loanee Pablo Maffeo did a great job, Girona lost 3-0. The reason was that while Pablo Maffeo was busy tracing Lionel Messi, it opened a way to breach their defence for other Barcelona players which led to the goals.
Messi loves to play in the midfield area and the 3-5-2 formation might trouble him. With this formation, there will be three centre-backs to defend the goal and Chelsea will have an extra midfielder in the area where Messi usually loves to play. That extra mid-fielder might trouble the Argentinian and block his movement.
This formation will also help them to speed up their counter attack.
Applying the right tactics might win the game for Chelsea but we cannot undermine the current Barcelona team and how are they playing at the moment. No matter who wins tonight, this game promises be a great one for the football fans.