Yesterday saw Part 1 of TheChelseaBlog’s chat with the opposition ahead of tonight’s game against Barcelona. And as promised, today concludes the discussion, with our predictions and final thoughts.
Guillem: Neither of you identified Iniesta or Lampard as your key players. You’ll see why in a minute, but I’d like to hear how you think the pair of them compares – and what role might they play in these two games?
Chelsea Blog: I don’t think Lampard’s influence against Barcelona will be any less noticeable than it’s been throughout the season. That’s not to suggest Iniesta won’t have a say in the game, but for all the skills Iniesta has, I wonder how well he’ll do in this game: whilst someone like Lampard won’t shy away from a battle, Iniesta lacks the necessary aggression to really fight it out.
FCB News: Ha ha. It sounds like Chelsea are definitely looking for a physical battle and I would imagine if it were just a physical battle, Chelsea would win. Fortunately, brains and technique also play an important part in football and this is where Iniesta and Barça have the advantage. Iniesta may not be big, but he is stronger than he looks and he is also exceptionally brave.
Lampard’s record speaks for itself. He has shown for years now that he is a vital part to Chelsea’s success. His goal record for a midfield player is phenomenal and he’s scored twice against us in four games.
Guillem: Before I tell you what I think, let’s have your closing comments and predictions…
The Chelsea Blog: If Guus Hiddink hadn’t agreed to step in temporarily this season it’s unlikely we’d even be in the competition now never mind facing Barcelona, so getting this far is an achievement in itself. However, since we have got ourselves this far, hopefully the pain of losing last year’s final will be enough to give us the edge.
Prediction for first leg – I’m a bit superstitious when it comes to making predictions, so I’ll just say I hope we can keep it below 3-0.
FCB News: I think it really all depends on whether we play at the level we are capable of. Chelsea will try to stop us, but I don’t think any team is capable of controlling us if we are on form. Playing at home in the first leg could also prove to be an advantage as we have more chance to take the early initiative. I have no doubt that Barça is the better team, but over 180 minutes this is no guarantee of success, in football the best team does not always triumph. Of course I hope we win but this wish is also for neutral fans and fans of beautiful football, Barça play the game as it should be played. For the magnificent football they have played this season they really do deserve every success.
Prediction: Barça 3 Chelsea 1
Guillem Balague: Fascinating stuff guys…but you know what? The Chelsea Blog I know you are playing the modesty card. I think you’re playing it safe and I don’t believe you really suspect that Chelsea will lose this tie in the first leg. You’re sitting on the fence – but I bet deep down you know you can make a stronger case for Chelsea!
I’m in agreement with FCB News when you say that Barcelona play the game how it should be played, but I have picked up signals, particularly against Valencia, that not all is well at Barça. They finished the game strongly, but at times, notably at the end of the first half, the team suffered when Valencia threw everything at them. Chelsea must try and do the same.
Guardiola has been talking to his troops about not conceding lateral free kicks (free kicks in forward wide positions). This has been a key factor this season as Barcelona have conceded more from corners than any other side in La Liga; but they have suffered less lateral free kicks than anybody else in the competition, which reflects a conscious effort not to get into trouble as defending set pieces really is their Achilles heel.
Chelsea will try a high tempo, highly physical game and Barcelona will have to focus upon not getting sucked in. Pep Guardiola has made real progress and learned a lot this season, but we have seen his worst side in highly charged games – remember the Espanyol defeat at the Camp Nou for instance?
The Barcelona coach is trying to ease the pressure by constantly repeating that they are happy to have reached this stage, but everybody will consider it a failure not to get to the Champions League final – and there is a tremendous burden of expectation and additional pressure coming from the wonderful football they have given us this season.
The Chelsea Blog, this is where your boys can take advantage. This group of players at Barcelona is hungry for success and the Champions League trophy is a priority, but too much psychological tension might work against them. That said, across both legs, Barcelona will probably qualify – but it will be very tight at the Camp Nou.
I’m going to disagree with both FCB News and The Chelsea Blog on the question of key players: my key player for Barcelona is Andres Iniesta. In my opinion he is the best player in the world right now and his influence goes beyond that of Messi and runs throughout the team. Always consistent; always at least an 8 out of ten in every game; providing assists; winning the ball; versatile and he has now added goalscoring to his repertoire.
For Chelsea, Frank Lampard will be key – and I loved The Chelsea Blog’s expression: ‘games like these were made for him.’ Frank is a friend, so I am biased, but I think he is the cleverest English player around. He has made a lot out of his lack of an excess of natural ability: he is no Messi. But, as we say in Spain, he can get petrol out of nothing and his link with Drogba has been pivotal for Chelsea over the last four years.
Prediction: 2-1 in the first leg.
Thanks to GuillemBalague.com and FCB News. Hope you lot enjoyed that as much as I did.