Chelsea v Barcelona: Treble-chasing Barca Return to the Scene of 2009 Triumph5 min read
Destination London as Barcelona head to the venue of surely one of their most dramatic results.
May 6, 2009, Stamford Bridge. Injury time. Chelsea are leading Barça by a goal to nil in their Champions League semi-final second leg and are odds on to go through.
Step forward Andres Iniesta with a rocket into the top corner to break the Londoners hearts.
Though Tuesday’s encounter is unlikely to match the drama of that balmy night, there’s still an awful lot riding on the game for both sides.
Chance for Chelsea to Turn their Season Around
Chelsea have been well off of the pace at times this season, but a good result against the form team in Europe will gloss over any perceived weaknesses. In Eden Hazard, the Blues do possess a genuine world class game changer, and his teammates will be looking to the Belgian to provide the keys to the lock.
In Pedro and Cesc Fabregas, they also have two former Barça players who’ll be keen to get one over on their old club.
Barcelona are still unbeaten in the competition under Ernesto Valverde and if they’re able to successfully negotiate this game, talk of an unprecedented ‘treble treble’ will only continue.
The coach set his stall out at the weekend by playing his strongest XI at Eibar, and it’s unlikely that he’ll defer from that at Stamford Bridge. A 4-4-2 isn’t the generally accepted norm for the Blaugrana, but if Valverde has done anything in his tenure, it’s to show that his sides can win with whatever formation he chooses.
Can Valverde’s Tactical Nous Make the Difference?
Valverde has certainly earned the respect of his players and the supporters by showing his tactical nous in a variety of different situations. In many respects, that’s where Chelsea need to focus their energies. Not necessarily in playing their own game because Valverde will find a way to pick it apart, but in moving Barça’s players out of position and working some goal scoring chances.
With a full house roaring them on, the special atmosphere is bound to translate to the XI on the pitch.
Alvaro Morata, on his return from injury, has a great chance to make a name for himself again on the biggest stage. He’ll find it hard going aerially against the dominant defensive pairing of Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique.
Balls in behind from Fabregas and Hazard are far more likely to bear fruit against a defence that lacks pace, bar Jordi Alba.
David Zappacosta and Antonio Rudiger need to be switched on for the duration because more often than not Lionel Messi will drift into their areas and has a willing overlapper in Sergi Roberto.
Perhaps Antonio Conte’s biggest decision is whether to play Andreas Christensen or Gary Cahill at centre-back. Up against an in-form Luis Suarez, does he go for youth or experience?
Don’t Expect a Goal-fest
Barça need to score of course, in order to take something back to the Camp Nou and hand them the advantage for the second leg.
I don’t expect a high-scoring encounter, but a punt on either Messi or Suarez to open the scoring – they are both to do so – is worthwhile. Similarly, Eden Hazard is the most likely to prise open a mean Barcelona back line, so think about a few pounds on the Belgian at .
A 1-1 draw at , just like in 2009, represents good value, and is a score that neither side would be unhappy with.