How Chelsea can beat Barcelona in the Champions League tie
The two clubs meet again...
Chelsea will face Barcelona for the 13th time in the UEFA Champions League this week at Stamford Bridge. It is fair to say that in the last decade and a half, the two clubs have become bitter rivals. Each time the two teams have crossed each other's path in the knockout stages we've had controversial decisions, late goals and plenty of drama.
The word 'controversy' seems like an understatement when one remembers the myriad of events that have taken place whenever the two sides have met. The biggest incident perhaps was a few years back when Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo denied Chelsea 4 penalty claims.
The match ended with a late goal from Andres Iniesta to take Barcelona through on away goals. What remains etched in one's mind is Didier Drogba's profanity-laced protest looking into the cameras after the final whistle.
Ovrebo, now retired, spoke up in the build-up to the game this week and has admitted that 'he made errors'. Mr. Ovrebo however, wasn't the only referee to get death threats post this fixture.
Swedish referee Anders Frisk went into early retirement in 2005 when he was accused by then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho of conspiring with Frank Rijkaard.
If allegations of match-fixing and favouritism by referees are not enough, there have been plenty of red-cards, instances of play-acting, penalties which video replays show were incorrectly awarded or incorrectly denied and last minute gut-wrenching goals - associated with this fixture.
Lionel Messi has gone so far as to say that Barcelona players hate Chelsea more than their traditional rivals, Real Madrid. Adding to it he claimed that they would rather play any other top club rather than face Chelsea and that he thinks it is the biggest rivalry between any two clubs in world football.
This week as the two rival-clubs take to the pitch to face each other again, Barcelona starts off as favourites to go through. Chelsea have been more than underwhelming in their Premier League title defence this season.
Meanwhile, Barcelona are unbeaten in the Spanish league thus far and have booked themselves a place in the Copa Del Rey Final. If that isn't enough they have Lionel Messi supported by some of the best players in the world in Luis Suarez, Andres Iniesta, and others.
So, here at Sportskeeda, we take a look at how Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, can deliver a tactical masterclass and beat Barcelona.
#1 How Barcelona are expected to line-up
"Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories" - Sun Tzu, the Art of War.
Know Thy Enemy.
Ernesto Valverde has experimented with multiple formations this season be it the 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 or the 4-diamond-2. However, Valverde against strong opponents has preferred a 3-man midfield.
Barcelona: Expected line-up 4-3-3/4-3-1-2 -Ter Stegen (Gk); S.Roberto - G.Pique - S.Umtiti - J.Alba; Paulinho - S.Busquets - I.Rakitic; A.Iniesta; L.Messi - L.Suarez
1- Coutinho will not be able to play against Chelsea given that he is 'Cup-tied' in the Champions League after his transfer from Liverpool in January.
2- The Barcelona back-line pretty much picks itself. Barcelona right-back Nelson Semedo is suspended for the first leg, though.
3- Brazilian midfielder Paulinho, seems to have resurrected his career at Barcelona and will be expected to play a key role in terms of providing energy to the Barcelona midfield and making the late runs into the box, so marking him is out of the question.
4- Andres Iniesta, will play both as number 10 behind Messi and Suarez but will also drift to the left-wing. Therefore, expect Barcelona to be extremely fluid switching between a 4-3-3 and a 4-diamond-2 formation based on where Iniesta senses the opportunity to have an impact.
5- Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi will lead the attack. Messi however, will drift largely to the right side looking to receive the ball and cut-in onto his stronger left foot to either score or to make an assist. Suarez, on the other hand, will drift more to the left side when Iniesta is in the number 10 position but will stay central when Iniesta drifts to the left.
The one advantage when it comes to playing a team like Barcelona is that they are a team with an inherent ideology. Sure, successive managers post-Guardiola have tinkered here and there with the style of play. However, as a team, the fundamental ideology remains the same.
For example, one can safely assume that Barcelona are not going to deliberately cede possession and try to play counter-attacking football; or that they are going to be whipping crosses repeatedly from the wide areas given the height of their attackers.
Barcelona has specific traits as an opposition and Chelsea must plan accordingly.