Chelsea Faces Mission Impossible Against Barcelona in Champions League Semi-Final
Chelsea’s win Wednesday night against Benfica in the UEFA Champions League was a victory for the club, Roberto Di Matteo, the Premier League and England. So much was riding on the line. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t impressive, but Chelsea held on for a win against all odds — especially given the forgettable season they’ve had under the management of Andre Villas-Boas.
If Chelsea’s Champions League run ends in the semi-final with a loss against Barcelona, the club will have nothing to be ashamed of. Even if they were able to beat Barcelona, an almost impossible feat, they would face either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the final — two teams who are equally capable of crushing Chelsea. Let’s be honest. Chelsea is playing remarkably better than they were just several weeks ago under Andre Villas-Boas, but this Chelsea squad — even if the team was firing on all cylinders — is not in the same league as a Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich.
Having said that, Barcelona looked vulnerable against AC Milan. The Barcelona defense were particularly weak whenever Milan got in behind the flat-footed back four especially when a first-time ball was crossed back into the box from the by-line. In recent games, Fernando Torres has been dangerous when he’s been cutting in from the right wing, into the penalty box. If Torres can play to his best abilities, the Spaniard may be able to unlock Barcelona down the right side. On the other side of the pitch, Kalou offers little threat down the left wing. Maybe moving Mata back to the left could work?
Despite Barcelona’s vulnerabilities, trying to defeat the Spanish side is out of reach for Chelsea, in my opinion. The Blues will be helped by having the first leg of the semi-final at Stamford Bridge where, if they’re lucky, they may be able to keep Barcelona to a draw. But to go to Camp Nou and expect anything other than a convincing defeat is unrealistic.
No matter what happens, Di Matteo has transformed this side and deserves to be given the role of manager on a permanent basis. The Italian has reinvigorated this side by bringing back the veterans (Lampard, Drogba, Essien and Kalou), improving team morale, and helping the team get back to winning ways. He deserves to be given the chance to make changes in the summer transfer window and to rebuild this Chelsea squad slowly, but surely instead of the helter-skelter ride that Villas-Boas had them on.