Well Chelsea played it exactly as they should have and they should have won this game 2-0. But, that’s what happens when you don’t score the second goal and have to worry about the away goal. It happened to Man U against Porto to launch Mourinho’s career and it happened again today.
Messi and company were choked just as I said they would be. One real shot on goal and they scored in injury time. Doesn’t get closer than that. Chelsea deserved this win. They should have had two penalties. But it was a questionable red card for Abidal. What’s with these referees? They don’t seem to talk things over with their linesmen for very long before handing out red cards. It’s ridiculous.
Anyway, now it’s Man U vs Barca in the final. Messi and Henry. Rooney and Ronaldo. Barca without both wing backs and Marquez, but with Henry probably back. Man U without Fletcher. Should be awesome. More awesome – I will be at the final!
Relatively straightforward in concept, but hard to do in reality unless you have the personnel.
First, water the pitch as much as you can. That’s why Messi didn’t really get going against Chelsea at the Nou Camp in the first leg. He couldn’t plant and cut with the pitch so wet. Also, he couldn’t get the ball rolling naturally to use his usual feints to get the defender off balance.
Second, get a quick left back. Messi didn’t get much change out of Patrice Evra against Manchester United last year. He didn’t get much out of Bosingwa in the first leg either. Quick defenders take away Messi’s main advantage of burning the left back one on one down the wing before turning for goal with the defender on his back and too many options for the center backs to deal with. That’s when he either cuts in and blasts past the keeper or sets up late arriving Xavi and Iniesta or goes to the far post for Henry. I bet he struggles against Ashley Cole though Ashley has lost a step since leaving Arsenal. I’d even consider playing Bosingwa as a shadow for Messi. He’d be more productive than Ballack was in the first leg.
Third, get him moving right to left parallel to the goal line. Do not give him the wing and do not let him play a one two to get behind the left back on the wing. That’s death. As he cuts across, the defensive midfield player has to pick him up, the center half has to stay goalside of Eto’o for the diagonal run to receive the Messi reverse ball and the left back has to stay goalside and to the outside of Messi so that he cuts off the one two reverse to Messi.
Fourth, have disciplined center backs to mark Eto’o’s diagonal runs. Let Messi have to take you on with a longer run.
Five, make him use his right foot. He isn’t entirely left footed, but he doesn’t have long distance power in his left foot and is below average with his right foot.
If people think this is theoretical, pull out the tapes of Man U vs Barcelona from last year (yes, he was just returning from injury) and Argentina vs Brazil from the South American Cup. That’s what happens when you put a fast marker on him and back that up with physical play on him and his teammates. Messi doesn’t like it when he can’t blow by you. Frustrate him and he’s easier to control. Kicking him is not going to work.
This one I felt contrarian about after the first leg. Common sense and normal analysis now say that Barca should win relatively easily. They are at home, have the away goal, have gotten back to winning with last weekend’s La Liga win, increased their lead to six points thus taking some pressure off the squad and have Messi. However, a big reason they are favored is that Benzema is a doubt. On the other side, Lyon have the always dangerous Juninho (his first leg goal was probably one of the top 3 free kicks I have ever seen given where it was taken from), nothing to lose and a shaky Barca defense now that Puyol is out. That’s the one major chink in the armor.
Key: If Lyon can score first, they have a shot. However, no Benzema is a problem. I just don’t know if they will have the gas to keep Barca out for 90 minutes on that big pitch at the Camp Nou. Plus, Iniesta is back. I also think Eto’o is due to score.
Surprise match winner: Keita or Gerard Pique.
Prediction: Barca 3 Lyon 1 (if Benzema plays, Lyon in an upset on away goals after holding Barca 2-2).