5 keys for Chelsea to beat Barcelona

By on April 17, 2012

Chelsea go in to their Champions League Semi-Final with Barcelona as the overwhelming underdogs. No one expects them to win, barely anyone except their own fans think they can win, but could they just pull off one of the upsets of the competition?

If Chelsea are to make it to make it to Munich, then there are five keys to beating the boys from the Nou Camp.

1. Whether to press or sit

To have a springboard for success against Barcelona, it starts with stifling them with the ball. This is done by either pressing them high up the pitch, or by sitting deep and clogging the area around the box.

AC Milan played Barcelona four times in this Champions League campaign. Despite going out to Barcelona in the quarter-finals, the Rossoneri managed two draws and a narrow defeat, before succumbing 3-1 to exit the competition in the Nou Camp after conceding two penalties.

Milan did have success against Barcelona though and when they did, they either pressed high up the pitch, or, they sat back and clogged the 18-yard area.

Milan-pressing-vs-barca

If Chelsea are to be successful, then they will have to either press Barca hard, or sit back and jam the middle. If they do decide to do the former, then fatigue may come in to play, which could fall right in to Barca’s hands.

2. The long ball in behind Daniel Alves

Daniel Alves likes to push on and Barcelona utilise him as an outlet from defence in order to attack. With the Brazilian up field, teams have success in looking for the long ball in behind Alves if they can create turnovers when he is out of position.

In both the group stages and the quarter-final, Milan did use this tactic and had success with it. They did complete a number of quickly played diagonal long balls in to the vacant area left by Alves’s surging forward runs.

milan-long-balls-vs-barca

This did create chances for Milan, and also a goal in the group stage game at the San Siro.

Solomon Kalou has been getting the nod out on the left for Chelsea under Roberto Di Matteo, so he will have to be on the lookout for when this is on.

3. Torres or Drogba?

If Chelsea are to employ a long ball tactic, not only to the front man, but also in to the space behind Daniel Alves, then their choice of centre forward is crucial.

Didier Drogba automatically springs to mind as the obvious pick due to his strength and aerial ability. However, mobility is also a key factor if Chelsea are going to look to hit the front man quickly and also with long balls out wide. For this reason, Fernando Torres, who is quite under-rated in the air but like a gazelle across the turf, should get the start.

4. Crosses are key

Barcelona have had trouble defending crosses and do give away goals this way.

In the quarter-finals, Milan completed 30% of their balls in to the box, the problem the Rossoneri had was that the only attempted ten in each game and lost the tie 3-1 on aggregate.

The sole match of the four they played against the Catalonia club where they put in more than ten crosses, they attempted 24 and competed a whopping 35% of them, resulting in two goals.

Chelsea were attempting 20 crosses on average in this season’s Champions League under Andre Villas-Boas and completed 30% of them. With Roberto Di Matteo in charge, the Blues have upped this to 22 crosses on average attempted per game and have completed 35% of them.

Against Barca, Chelsea will have to do more of the same.

5. Force Barca to shoot from outside

For a team that gets away 17 shots per game on average, this is easier said than done. Barca play possession and short passing football to create openings and they usually get them inside the box.

When Milan were able to draw 2-2 and 0-0 with Barcelona, they forced 50% and 33% of Barcelona’s shots from outside the box. In defeat, they were only able to force 13% of Barca’s shots to be from outside the area.

Chelsea won’t be able to stop Barcelona getting shots, but  they can affect their location.

Whilst not mission impossible, Chelsea do face the hardest challenge of their season. If they have a gameplan in place to exploit Barcelona’s weak areas, then they might just pull off the shock of this season’s competition.