I’ve already talked about the Barca players’ reaction to us smothering their play Tuesday night, although to an extent, that was always to be expected in the unlikely event they failed to come out on top at the end of the night. But given the amount that’s been written about the game, and the difference of opinion expressed not just in the press but seemingly amongst the supporters themselves, I though I’d give TheChelseaBlog’s take on events.
In the run up to the game, all the talk was around just how the hell Chelsea could stop Barcelona’s undoubted attacking threat. Petr Cech had been going through one of his dodgiest ever periods for us, we had no recognised left-back to keep Messi quiet and we still had players like Eto’o and Thierry Henry to contend with. So, with all that in mind, was Guus Hiddink going to send our players out there with a clear objective to play ‘the beautiful game’? Well, not unless he wanted the tie done and dusted in the first leg he wasn’t. The Catalans had already battered Lyon and Bayern Munich at the Nou Camp and if we’d got involved in an attacking game with them, exactly the same thing would have happened to us.
Naturally, the fact that we did go out there and defend in numbers didn’t please the masses, but whilst I’m usually the first to complain when we play that sort of game, it’s horses for courses isn’t it? If we played that way against Liverpool in the quarter-finals, I’ve no doubt I’d have been one of the first to moan about it but the fact is Hiddink knew they weren’t the sort of tactics he needed to get past the dippers whereas against Barca they definitely were. Bloody good management if you ask me. And as for all the ‘Chelsea always play defensive football’ bullshit I’ve read since Tuesday night, that can only come from those who were on another planet while we were getting 7-5 aggregate scores against Liverpool in the Champions League, the 5-0’s in the league, 4-0’s in both league and cup and even the 4-3 against Bolton. Is that the defensive 1-0 Chelsea of a couple of seasons ago? I hardly think so.
It does make me laugh though. When Liverpool park the bus and get a result they’re hailed as the Kings of Europe. Even Manchester United had to resort to much more defensive tactics than they’re used to in order to get past Barcelona and into the final last year, so when it clearly works, why is it such a big deal when we do it?
Of course what the public wanted to see was the Barca players cruising effortlessly around the pitch, taking shots at will and instead had to watch these ‘class’ players resorting to play acting for the ref’s benefit. No question about it, we frustrated them and their whingeing in the press suggests they’re rattled. And whilst 0-0 didn’t excite anyone outside Chelsea on the night, psychologically, our players know it wouldn’t be the first time we’d put Barca out of this competition – and Barca will be only too aware we’ve managed it at Stamford Bridge before as well.
So everyone outside Chelsea can slate our tactics as much as they like, the fact is we’re still very much in the tie. And whilst it could’ve been made a lot bloody easier if Drogba had taken the chance he had, we at least know we have what it takes to contain them when they attack – something Barca didn’t get the chance to find out about us Tuesday night. They’ll be without both Puyol and Marquez for the second leg, so we’ll at least have a weakness to try and exploit and with Drogba getting his bad night out of the way at the Nou Camp, without having conceded any before the return, a good night from the Ivorian could be enough to get us to Rome.
Anyone still think Hiddink hasn’t got it right so far?