Is this the way to beat Barcelona? After Chelsea’s victory, we further analyse how to stop one of football’s greatest ever teams
Many teams have tried many different tactics to try and stop the way Barcelona go about their business on the football pitch.
The majority of the time, Barca breeze to victories whilst playing a brand of football that is orgasmic to the eye. Last season the Catalan side won both La Liga and the Champions League and their only slip up was to their bitter rivals, Real Madrid, in the Copa del Rey final.
In the current campaign they have found things a little more difficult and as we reach the end of the season, you can almost see cracks appearing in this great footballing side.
Prior to their game against Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final, Barca visited high-flying Levante in the league and despite a 2-1 victory, courtesy of two Lionel Messi goals, it was the first time in a while that they seemed to lack a cutting edge in and around the box.
Levante sat back, as most teams do, but they also piled emphasis on the counter-attack and looked to hit Barcelona on the few occasions that they retained the ball. It was a scare for Pep Guardiola’s side but Levante ran out of legs and Barca managed to score two second-half goals.
Having seen the Levante game, Chelsea fans would have been relieved to find out that there is, in fact, a way to hurt Barcelona without leaving gaps in your formation.
The Blues started with Didier Drogba up front on his own and the big centre-forward caused no end of problems for the Catalan giants in what turned out to be a frustrating night for the away side.
As expected, Barcelona kept the ball for long periods of the game but created very little as the Chelsea rearguard stood firm. Cesc Fabregas was again a lost figure in the middle of the park and he has hit a rough patch after such a great start at the Camp Nou.
Chelsea won 1-0 on the night and now take an advantage to Barcelona but the real concern for Pep will be how the same game plan that hurt them in Levante, is now being implemented by a better team who also have the players who are good enough and fit enough to sustain it for a full 90 minutes.
Maybe this tactic will be a regular occurrence by Barca opposition in the next 12 months but it does take a very disciplined outfit to perfect it.
The defence has to be on guard at all times because for large periods of the game, they are not actually marking anyone due to the fact that Lionel Messi drops back into deeper positions to pick the ball up.
The attacking players must then be prepared to throw everything at the Barca back line when they get the ball back.
Chelsea nailed it on Wednesday and they gave a faultless performance which none other than Jose Mourinho will take heart from as his Real Madrid side go head-to-head with Barcelona on Saturday.
Despite the Catalan side looking slightly jaded at the minute, it still wouldn’t surprise me if they went on to topple both Chelsea and Real Madrid. We would then be left guessing if there actually is a way to stop this magnificent side but for now there is hope for some and it certainly makes for intriguing viewing.