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Brave at the Bridge

Blues must believe in their ball-playing ability, says Ray

Ray Wilkins - Ray Wilkins Posted 16th April 2012 view comments

Chelsea will be champing at the bit to have a go at Barcelona after beating one of their biggest rivals of all time in a showpiece occasion at Wembley.

I've no doubt the lads are flying after that 5-1 victory over Tottenham and with Barcelona enjoying an upturn in form, Wednesday's game is a mouth-watering prospect.

This is the fifth time that these two sides have met in the knockout stages of the Champions League but it will be only the second time that they have met in the semi-final - following that astonishing night three years ago when Barca went through on away goals.

Tor of the same: Torres celebrates his goal against Benfica

Tor of the same: Torres celebrates his goal against Benfica

Eight of Chelsea's current squad played in the home leg that night but they can't afford to go into the game with revenge on their mind; cool heads are needed otherwise Barca will just pick them off.

The odds favour the defending champions but Roberto Di Matteo is doing such a remarkable job at the Bridge that there is hope for Chelsea.

Andre Villas-Boas tried his upmost to turn Chelsea around but it wasn't to be - and things definitely seem to be going in the right direction for Roberto, Eddie Newton and Steve Holland.

Stamford Bridge will be rocking come Wednesday and I'm sure the players can't wait to take on one of the best club sides the world has ever seen.

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While I'd imagine Roberto would have to enjoy a wonderful showing in the Champions League for him to get the job permanently, it would be very pleasant if he was given the opportunity given what he's achieved so far.

Confidence

Although Chelsea's second 'goal' against Tottenham was controversial, it shouldn't detract from a wonderful job well done; it's quite a feat to score five goals against Spurs and that result must have given the players the utmost confidence.

Stamford Bridge will be rocking come Wednesday and I'm sure the players can't wait to take on one of the best club sides the world has ever seen.

Unfortunately it looks as though David Luiz will miss out due to injury, but Gary Cahill now has a fantastic chance to come in alongside John Terry and prove what he can do against the very best.

Gary has now played at international level so he shouldn't have a problem and when I spoke to JT the other day he said Gary is getting on extremely well.

John Obi Mikel is another player who has been doing remarkably well since he came back in and I'd expect him, Michael Essien and Frank Lampard to all feature at some point.

I thought Fernando Torres would play against Tottenham and Didier Drogba would be saved for the Barcelona game to give the Spaniards a bit more of a physical test, but Roberto has decided to use his strikers the other way around and I assume now that Torres will start as part of a 4-3-3 system.

That has been a very, very good formation for them over the years but they also have the option of playing two in front of the back four and allowing Juan Mata to drift just in behind the central striker.

Whichever way Chelsea go, they have to match Barcelona in midfield and play as directly as they can. It's important that they get Barca's midfield players facing their own goal as often as possible.

They've got to be brave with the first pass they make; it can't be a panic pass. Barcelona press in so many numbers that if they can get a ball through then they'll have an opportunity of making a counter-attack.

The Chelsea boys are good ball players; they should believe in their ability and try to put Barcelona on the back foot but they've got to attack with a bit of caution as well because they can't leave themselves exposed.

This is a remarkable Barcelona side and on the counter-attack they play with so much pace that they can be too hot to handle; Chelsea won't want to make their job more difficult than it already is.

Genius

Lionel Messi will need no second invitation to take centre stage. It's never easy to contain genius and Messi is one of the best players to have ever graced our planet. He's having another incredible season and it's hard to see where he can improve.

He's better and more experienced that when Chelsea faced him in 2009, which means he has a wider range to his game. The Chelsea players have to try to put him in areas where they want him - they can't afford to dive in and make life easy for him.

Chelsea have to replicate what Bayer Leverkusen did in the initial stages of their encounter with Barcelona in Germany: they packed the midfield and kept things very tight, ensuring that there was no gaps between their lines.

Messi wasn't too prominent initially as a result but once Barcelona scored, Leverkusen started to chase the game and they went on to lose it 3-1.

Chelsea can't afford to do that. If the worst comes to the worst and Barcelona score first, you've got to keep your composure otherwise it is game over. They must go to the Camp Nou still in the tie and I honestly believe that the lads can.

Of course, it's always very pleasant to take an advantage to a place like the Camp Nou but even if you go there at 0-0 - or even one goal down - you have an opportunity because you never know what might happen in football.

Barcelona's defence isn't the strongest you'll ever see - and if it means going Route One to break it then so be it. That's the way we played them when they were last at Stamford Bridge. We put them under immense pressure and caused them a few problems.

Personally I think Chelsea will win at the Bridge but unfortunately I think Barcelona will score; it wouldn't surprise me if this first leg finished 2-1 to Chelsea.

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Barcelona may have the strongest first XI in club football, but I honestly believe that Real Madrid have the best squad.

Bayern have their fair share of extremely talented players too - they certainly have the firepower to trouble the best - but they worry me defensively; in my view, they aren't sufficiently well equipped to take on the big boys of European football and I think this might be a game too far for them.

Cristiano Ronaldo has now scored 41 goals for Real this season and, as we saw at the weekend, he's a remarkable header of the ball.

It must be heart-breaking for him to wake up in the morning and find he's still only the second-best player in the world despite all the goals he scores and all the enjoyment he gives people!

Bayern's Champions League progress has caused them to fall short in the Bundesliga this season; they've had one eye on this competition and the other on league games they've felt they should win automatically. But football isn't like that - you have to focus on every game you play.

Real will get a rude awakening when they go to Munich but it will be nothing like the atmosphere when Bayern go to the Bernabeu.

From a Sky Sports perspective, I'm hoping that Bayern take a lead to Real Madrid and that we see the La Liga side open up at home. Who knows what might happen then?

However, I expect Real Madrid to go through over the two legs. Jose Mourinho's side simply have too much class.

Comments (4)

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Kieran Baker (Newcastle United fan) says...

The chelsea defence is shakey, I see barcelona making mince meat of them, but, the chelsea midfield and forwards will definately damage barcelona with their power and pace , I am praying this comes to pass and we all have a feast of goals, same goes for the semi final between bayern and real, these semi's will be a treat for us nuetrals

Posted 15:34 17th April 2012

Ben Killeen (Dagenham & Redbridge fan) says...

TEAM LINEUP - Cech Ivanovic Cahill Terry Cole Mikel Essien Sturridge Mata Ramires Drogba! Tactics - Cahill and Terry stay tight together and adapt their style of play from clearing the ball up to Drogba into a more settled approach of remaining calm under pressure doing measured passes up to Drogba Mikel and Essien both zonal mark messi and iniesta to and rather than consistently apply pressure on Barcelonas superior midfield they instead abide by the 5 second rule, whereby if they cannot reclaim possession within 5 seconds of losing the ball they both sit back and keep the lines between defence and midfield tight and discliplined Sturridge and Ramires need to do lung bursting runs both forward and back providing cover when the fulls backs attack either way. Ramires needs to consistently keep track of Alves who plays a pivotal role for Barcelona at both attacking and keeping their defence mobile Drogba plays his trademark role of not only holding the ball up waiting for attacking assistance but also needs to gradually force Puyol and Pique backwards towards goal. His strength and under-rated pace on the ball needs to plough space for Mata and Sturridge.

Posted 13:53 17th April 2012

Aziz Tayyar (Chelsea fan) says...

" That has been a very, very good formation for them over the years but they also have the option of playing two in front of the back four and allowing Juan Mata to drift just in behind the central striker. " I agree with you, i think we've been stuck to 4-3-3 system for a long time. despite whether the players liked it or not, we should consider the players' abilities not the players' wishes.

Posted 07:48 17th April 2012

Steven Morris (Chelsea fan) says...

Well direct play is the only way to play Barcelona FC and I think Dider Drogba might be given the go ahead over Torres in this Leg. Simply to try to out muscle the defence and see if it paths way to scoring a goal as the Spanish League is not known for phyiscal defenders and is Barcelona's only real weakness like Real Madrid. I can see Chelsea starting really confident because of their last 5-1 win over Tottenham and halfway there to winning another FA cup. Straight away I can predict Carles Puyol, Danniel Alves and Gerald Pique playing at the Bridge and there will be a question of whether Puyol will be at left or centre of defence. They will probably go out to try and score one or two away goals and the squard they got I would not be half surprised to see them scoring against Chelsea. This leaves the question of defence or attack to Roberto Di Matteo before the game. Knowing him he will probably go out setting his players to try to score and keep hold of it while trying to score another. Chelsea must not try to out pass them as they will only lose that battle straight away because of the way Pep Guardiola sets his team to pass the ball and recover the ball as soon as it is lost. Quick counters, old school English direct long balls are the way forward to expose Barcelona. Of course they will be drama on and off the field and the two characters' of both teams clash each time. Emotions shall be high for Chelsea on a whole as they feel "robbed" from their previous encounter and want to get "revenge". Whilst Barcelona it be the factor of thinking they won got the vital goal and you did not and would want to prove that they did not need the four penalties that Chelsea did not get to win against them. Chelsea want the Champions League, Barcelona have a history of winning it and seek to keep hold of it and set another record by becoming the first team to retain the trophy. 4-2 or 4-3 my predicted scores with lots of goals.

Posted 23:11 16th April 2012

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