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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for Forbes.com and Soccerly.com and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


TANGENTS

Chelsea and Barcelona – The First Eleven, Rights and Wrongs

Written by on April 18, 2012 | 10 Comments »
Posted in Barcelona, Chelsea, UEFA Champions League

 Certainly lots of chances in the game but from Chelsea’s perspective there were far too many for Barcelona. One shut out while allowing 24 attempts is one thing, doing it twice is something else. Conversely only six attempts actually hit the target. 

 Chelsea did an outstanding job in blocking ten of Barcelona’s attempts on goal. Five of the blocks came from Lionel Messi shots. Four from outside of the penalty box.

 

 It is interesting that so many talk of Barcelona’s defensive weakness but in terms of tackles and interceptions the team’s performance was solid.

 Many expected Juan Mata to play a prominent role if Chelsea was to get a decent result. As it was he was quite and largely ineffective and finished up being taken off and replaced by Kalou.

 The energy of Ramires and his ability to get up and down the park was critical to Chelsea. Di Matteo fielded him on the left side of midfield and he provided Chelsea with a much needed outlet. When he was able to break forward from deep positions he caused Barcelona some problems and it was one such move that led to the only goal of the game scored by Didier Drogba.

 

 Contrast how the goalkeepers passed the ball. Petr Cech went long and was largely unsuccessful in Chelsea retaining possession while Victor Valdez generally kept passes short and allowed Barcelona to build from the back.

 

 Xavi’s passing statistics are often distorted by the number of backward and side-way passes. But a look at his “passes forward” graphic illustrates how well disciplined Chelsea were and how they plugged the centre of their defence and made very difficult to play through.

 

 This one is a double-edged sword but I am opting for wrong rather than right. Chelsea was caught offside 5 times in the first half but had no such calls in the second half. Was it a case of learning a lesson or just not attempting to get forward as much in the second 45 minutes?

 

 There is no better illustration of Chelsea’s game plan than the graphic that illustrates passing by each team in the final third of the field of each team. It worked this time for Chelsea can it work just as well at the Nou Camp next Tuesday?

 

 Chelsea funneled Barcelona left and right and Barcelona’s resulting crosses were mostly poor.

 

 I have never been a big John Obi Mikel fan but far a moment just consider the following graphic in relation to some that preceded it. Barcelona dominated the play and was camped in Barcelona’s half for the vast majority of the match. Only a couple of tackles, both lost, and an interception by the player whose primary responsibility was to shield the Chelsea defence. The explanation? An outstanding display of positional play I would say.

 

Anything that caught your eye on Wednesday?

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10 responses to “Chelsea and Barcelona – The First Eleven, Rights and Wrongs”

  1. Antoni says:

    Your point about Barca’s defense is well made. Many are bullish on Drogba’s play but goal apart I thought they contained him well. Chelsea were so deep( both by choice and because of Barca’s pressure) that he was all alone.You can knock the ball down all day but if your closest team mate is 15 yards away then what good is it? I think that Barca played well enough and if they play at least at well at home they should easily make the tie up.

  2. J Rob says:

    Very impressed by Ramires all game and Cahill in the 2nd half. Another noticeable thing about Chelsea is how they get men on or near the goal-line in dangerous situations. Cole made an important clearance from Fabregas first-half and Pedro’s attempt that hit the post at the end of the game was made tougher by the three Chelsea defenders guarding the goal at the time.

    Although Barcelona got beaten it’s hard to criticise them too much. While they consistently had players sitting on the flanks they seemed reticent to try and take on their markers and make for the by-line.

    The moves that saw Sanchez hit the bar in the first-half and then miss a great chance in the 2nd were both exquisite. The lobbed pass from Fabregas for the latter was sublime.

    Not my place to suggest what Chelsea to do in the second-leg but you’d think they’d love to nick a goal with their aerial advantage.

  3. Ossie says:

    I would say due to the way Chelsea set out to play, the 6 on target is much more relevant than the 24. Chelsea’s height advantage kept the Barca crosses high.

    I was impressed by the lack of over-involvement from the ref. I applaud his restraint and note the lack of Mourinho-style contact, even when half a dozen Chelsea players were collapsing on Messi.

    Can they do it again? Sure, why not? Fatigue and a different referee are worries, certainly, but it’s not like there is another way to get through with these players.

    Cahill lost Sanchez on the shot that hit the bar, got a word from Terry and proceeded to have a good match. He was one of my worries, but I’m impressed with his play in Blue so far. Look out Rio!

  4. Ed Gomes says:

    Ramires has quite possibly been the signing of the year.
    I saw him plenty at Benfica and he hasn’t changed a bit. His motor is always going and never stops. Ramires played a whole season in Brasil, was bought by Benfica and started playing after taking two weeks off started playing in Portugal. He also played in the World Cup. He’ll get tired eventually.

  5. wengler says:

    Barcelona was extremely unlucky not to score. Chelsea did a pretty good job of keeping them wide, but Messi was still fairly rampant and would’ve gotten through if not for some calculated tackles. A couple more yards and those free kicks are penalties.

    It will be interesting to see just how defensive Chelsea comes out. A goal at Nou Camp is just as good as two, as it would force Barca to score three.

  6. Astronomer says:

    Talking about Chelsea versus Barcelona, it seems that Tom Henning Ovrebo is now belatedly admitting that he may have made some errors that hurt Chelsea in the semifinal three years ago.

    Interesting.

    As for the upcoming second leg, who UEFA appoints as the referee can very well determine who ends up in the final in May.

    _________________________________________________

  7. Astronomer says:

    For anyone interested in Ovrebo’s belated admission of his errors, here is one sample link:

    http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/1050513/tom-henning-ovrebo:-my-refereeing-errors-cost-chelsea-in-2009?cc=5901 ____________________________________

  8. Ovrebo’s “admission” could also be interpreted as he should have sent Ballack off.

  9. Ed Gomes says:

    Maybe the most significant thing for these two teams is all the fouls and cards dished out in the Real vs Bayern match. Both of those squads could be without key figures for the final, especially Real.

    Chelsea could very well pull it off again, but ta means they need to score first. They could lose 2-1 and advance. You Barca is going to score, the question will be if Chelsea could as well.
    How do you think Torres is feeling right about now?

    As for Barca’s defense, it’s all about the midfield. Their back line can be exposed, but with that midfield controlling the ball and not normally losing it in a bad spot, it’s tough to attack that back line.

  10. TR says:

    I have only watched part of the first 1/2, but some of Barcelona’s misses are extraordinary already.

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