Having won 1-0 at Stamford Bridge last week, Chelsea are in a decent position to eliminate the best team in the world and current defending Champions League holders. Whilst it is going to be an extremely difficult task, I no longer think it is mission impossible. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. Barcelona Look Tired
It took Barcelona 70 minutes to have their first shot on target in the El Clasico at Camp Nou this past Saturday. This was not the Barcelona we are use to seeing. They looked a bit leggy. Josep Guardiola has made a few rotations throughout the seasons (otherwise Cesc Fabregas wouldn’t get a game), but the majority of this team have been playing under Guardiola during his 4-year reign, some winning Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010… at some point they genuinely need a rest. Lionel Messi’s goals have seemingly dried up recently too.
2. El Clasico Was at the Weekend. Chelsea Rested
Barcelona all-but lost La Liga at the weekend, going down 2-1 at home to arch-rivals Real Madrid leaving them 7 points behind with 4 games remaining. Chelsea rested 8 of their starters from the first leg for their 0-0 draw with Arsenal at the weekend, whilst 9 of Barcelona’s players started both the tie at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday and Saturday’s El Clasico. Most, if not all of those 9 are likely to play their third tough game in a week on Tuesday night. Fatigue.
3. Defensive Tactics Worked for Past Two Games
Chelsea have kept back-to-back clean sheets in their last two games, versus Barcelona and Arsenal by playing their defensive, counter-attack tactics. The partnership of John Terry and Gary Cahill in the middle has looked good, weeks before the Euro 2012 finals. Yes, Barcelona had their chances in the first leg, hitting the bar, post and having one cleared off the line. But Barcelona certainly didn’t get beyond Chelsea’s backline as they have with ease against other teams this season. Lionel Messi was kept under control – now 7 games without a goal against the English side. Chelsea have an option with Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres on the counter.
4. Pack the middle
Both of these sides play very narrow, relying on their full backs to offer width. Dani Alves will be Barcelona’s biggest threat down the flanks; the Brazilian basically plays as a winger most of the time. If Chelsea sit a disciplined player on him, the remaining 9 outfield players can pack the middle, where Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas play. Yes, Alexis Sanchez does play out there, but the Chilean likes to come inside. With Michael Essien, Ramires and John Obi Mikel, Chelsea have players to sit in the middle and prevent Barcelona sliding balls in between the centre backs.
5. Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba was a massive reason for Chelsea winning the first leg. Yes, he scored the only goal of the game, but the Ivorian also unsettled the Barcelona team. His play-acting and time-wasting was something Sergio Busquets would have been proud of, but importantly, it got under the skin of the Barcelona players, as well as giving his team mates some breathing time, as they played most of the first leg without the ball.
Chelsea are 5/2 to progress to the Champions League final. Barcelona, clear favourites to progress and favourites to lift the trophy. But they do look beatable right now.