I know what Barca did to Real Madrid on the weekend. I know Messi is supposed to be the player of this generation. I know Iniesta and Xavi are incredibly talented midfielders and Eto’o is one of the best strikers in the world. But the only things that are matter are these:
Barca has the away goals shut out of Chelsea in its favor. If Barca scores at least one goal, Chelsea needs to win the game.
Messi is going to be determined to show he is the best in the world after the performance Ronaldo put on today.
The game is being played at Stamford Bridge where the pitch feels smaller than the Nou Camp which means less room for Messi and company to play their football.
No Marquez and no Puyol in the middle. That means Pique, who for all his game is a relative rookie, and Caceres in the middle with the mercurial Valdes behind them.
Eric Abidal got skinned by first Robben and then Ramos for the first goal. Hiddink, if I were you, I’d start Kalou on the right. Dani Alves on the right is at best an average defender.
Henry might not play due to a knee injury.
Hiddink is a scarily successful coach no matter the squad he has – and he has a tough, experienced, motivated squad playing at home.
Based on these factors, while I still think its going to be tight, I think Chelsea goes through.
Guus, this is what you need to do to win. As I said in the prior post, (1) water the pitch well to slow Messi down. (2) Start Kalou on the right and Malouda on the left. Lampard in the middle. Drogba up front. Essien and Mikel holding midfielders. If you go one down, then bring on Anelka up front in the second half for Mikel. For now, Ballack needs to start on the bench. (3) Make sure Cole doesn’t give Messi the sideline – funnel him inside and then have Essien pick him up. Not Mikel who gives away too many fouls on the edge of the box. If Messi tries to go to the middle as he did against Real Madrid, even better for you. That’s when you have Essien man mark him with Mikel sitting in a holding position behind him. (4) If Henry doesn’t start, I believe Keita or Busquets will play in holding midfield along with Yaya Toure to help out the two kids at the center of defense. Resist the temptation to play Ballack even with the reduced Barca team speed if Henry is out. Yes, he may be good for headers off set pieces, but that’s a luxury you can’t afford in this game. (5) Make sure Chelsea pumps more diagonal balls into the box. See how Barca was all at sea during the Real game with crossed balls – they scored both goals on balls like that. Cech was wasteful with his long clearances straight to Valdes. (6) Keep possession better than you did at Barca. Don’t be so nervous. Barca isn’t that strong at pressing. You play in the EPL. You can hang with Liverpool and Man U. Why be so concerned about Barca’s pressure up the pitch. Pass your way out. You always have Drogba to hold the ball up.
Pep, this is what you need to do. (1) If Henry is out, then play Iniesta down the left and start Keita and Yaya at holding mid behind Xavi, Eto’o and Messi. Hold Chelsea first, give cover and confidence to Pique and Caceres and wait for Messi to deliver. If it’s tough going, then bring on Bojan for Keita and push Eto’o wide. (2) Score a goal. In fact, score two. Because I think that’s what you are going to need to win with the defense you have for this game. (3) Shave and get a decent tie. (4) Start Messi going up the middle to confuse the crap out of Chelsea’s backline and then move him back to the right.
Prediction: Chelsea 2 Barcelona 1