PMB: Barcelona v Chelsea - history and tactics


We complete our preview for the game with a look back a famous past encounters and ahead to tonight from club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton…

 

WE HAVE HISTORY



Tonight Chelsea and Barcelona meet for the 17th occasion in European competition and 14th in the Champions League.

Although Chelsea are still looking for our first ever win at the Camp Nou, the Blues are unbeaten in the last four visits, all draws. The most recent was in 2012, the year Chelsea won this competition.

At the time the semi-final second leg match in Catalonia came around the Blues were sixth in the Premier League, and a place in the following season’s Champions League earned through winning the competition looked as valid a prospect as securing a top-four finish.

As if the age-old rivalry needed any more spice, the media tried to make a story out of Chelsea electing to wear an all-white strip, more commonly associated in Spain with Real Madrid – the Catalans had lost at home to their deadly rivals three days earlier.

As it turned out, four of the Chelsea team would be ruled out of the Munich showdown through suspension: Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles and John Terry.

The skipper was red carded for an off-the-ball incident with Alexis Sanchez eight minutes before the interval. By then his fellow centre-back Gary Cahill had hobbled off to be replaced by Jose Bosingwa, and the hosts had already made the breakthrough, scoring through Sergio Busquets. The 10 men were soon outmanoeuvred again, with Andres Iniesta opening a two-goal lead.

‘Stand by for the floodgates to open,’ proclaimed one radio commentary. Then, just before the break, Ramires was cautioned. With few moments to ponder the fact he would miss a final that must have seemed a somewhat distant prospect at the time, the Brazilian then passed to Frank Lampard and burst forward.

As the England man looked up, Ramires continued his run to sprint clear and was met with perfection from Lampard’s right foot. Skipping through to face Victor Valdes one-on-one, Ramires subtly clipped the ball over the goalkeeper into the empty goal.


In that instant the game turned on its head, the 1-0 first-leg advantage and away goal enough to send the Londoners to Munich, should we manage to preserve it.

Dramatically, just five minutes into the second half, Lionel Messi was presented with the chance to break his Chelsea duck from the spot. He failed, striking the bar – that ‘blue angel’ on the woodwork that Ruud Gullit had identified still working in Chelsea’s favour.

Rarely has a second half produced football of such tension as well as quality – in defending as well as attacking. Wave after wave crashed on Chelsea’s heroic, makeshift rearguard. Ivanovic, Petr Cech, Lampard and Raul Meireles were shown yellows. Out of position, Bosingwa played like a warrior.       

As the match reached a crescendo, yet another Barca attack broke down and the masterful Ashley Cole sent a howitzer clearance upfield. Remarkably, Fernando Torres, who had earlier lost possession but ran upfield, found himself unattended on the halfway line, only the ball and acres of green between him and the goal.

With the world holding its breath, he raced towards Valdes, rounded the goalie and levelled the score on the night. Busquets’ despairing collapse on the turf seemed the physical manifestation of what went through the mind of each of Pep Guardiola’s players in that moment.

Torres’s contribution was iconic not for its intrinsic value – a 1-2 defeat would have sufficed for Robbie Di Matteo’s men – but for the pent-up stress and sheer joy it released.


The Blues went on to beat Munich on the Germans’ own soil and become the first London club to win the European Cup, and the most recent team from England to do so.

 


BLUE NOTES

 

The Blues’ overall record against Barça is five wins, six draws and five defeats. In knockout matches, Chelsea have progressed on two of the six occasions the two sides been paired.


Previous meetings

SeasonCompetitionRoundResults (Chelsea score shown first)
1965/66Inter-Cities Fairs CupSemi-finalA 0-2H 2-0
Play-offA 0-5
1999/00Champions LeagueQuarter-finalH 3-1A 1-5 (after extra-time)
2004/05Champions LeagueRound of 16A 1-2H 4-2
2005/06Champions LeagueRound of 16H 1-2A 1-1
2006/07Champions LeagueGroup stageH 1-0A 2-2
2008/09Champions LeagueSemi-finalA 0-0H 1-1 (lost on away goals)
2011/12Champions LeagueSemi-finalH 1-0A 2-2
2017/18Champions LeagueRound of 16H 1-1


Chelsea’s biggest away wins in the Champions League

21/10/2014        Chelsea 6-0 Maribor      Group stage

20/10/1999        Galatasaray 0-5 Chelsea - First group stage

25/11/2014        Schalke 0-5 Chelsea - Group stage

 

Barcelona’s biggest home win in the Champions League

13/09/2016        Barcelona 7-0 Celtic                      Group stage
 

 

TACTICAL BRIEF
 

•            The first leg performance by his team was ‘almost perfect’ according to Antonio Conte, but after Barcelona secured an away goal Chelsea will have to be flawless and score at Camp Nou this evening, he warned.

•            The Italian has said his team need to repeat the game played at Stamford Bridge, suggesting he may retain the 3-4-3 system that used the ball well, especially in the first half. The Catalans often appeared stretched in that first leg.

•            The Blues side that previously won in Spain at Atletico Madrid was quite different, with Alvaro Morata, then match-winner Michy Batshuayi, leading the line, Gary Cahill with David Luiz at the back and Tiemoue Bakayoko, who is fit again, alongside N’Golo Kante.

•            Olivier Giroud, playing on defenders’ shoulders, is another option tonight. Willian, who has now scored or set up 17 goals in as many games, agonisingly struck the post twice before hitting the net for the opener three weeks ago. Before the visitors equalised, Chelsea twice outnumbered them in quick breakaways. On both occasions the Brazilian could not quite find the spare royal blue shirt.

•            Kante, with his perception and energy, and Cesc Fabregas, with the ball, will have to find the same incisiveness through the middle if they play, while cutting out Barcelona’s edge-of-box interplay. Lionel Messi was dispossessed six times in the first leg and was successful in two of his six dribbles (Willian succeeded in six of his eight).


•            The English champions had five attempts on goal at set-plays against the Catalans, with Toni Rudiger towering above Samuel Umtiti. Conte will hope this time one of them is made to count – John Terry 2005-style.

•            The back three is again likely to play narrow and compact. Davide Zappacosta, who played at the Wanda Metropolitano as well as the win over Palace last weekend, may step aside for Victor Moses to keep Jordi Alba pinned back. Moses’ persistent width drew visiting players over, freeing space in the centre for forward passes.

•            One other potential advantage is that Chelsea have played just three matches since we met in London, while Barca have had five. 

Who's the Blue?


•            The only threat to Ernesto Valverde being able to field his usual starters is a hamstring problem for Andres Iniesta. Although the veteran attacking midfielder took part in some training this week, his coach will surely not want to take risks with the 33-year-old, who remains crucial to the team’s style.

•            January signing Philippe Coutinho, an otherwise obvious replacement, is ineligible while another possibility, Denis Suarez, is sidelined with knee damage. Should Iniesta not make it, the Catalans may use striker Ousmane Dembele and tweak their usual 4-4-1-1 system. Nelson Semedo, banned at the Bridge, is now hamstrung.

•            The Blaugrana have been in formidable form at home in the Primera Liga, and are yet to concede a single goal in the last quarter-hour of either half at Camp Nou.

•            However, until Stamford Bridge they had not conceded on the road in this season’s competition, and the Blues have already beaten Atletico 2-1 on Spanish soil at Wanda Metropolitano; leaders Barca managed a draw there in La Liga.