Today’s much anticipated match between Chelsea and Barcelona is far more than a simple soccer game between twenty two people on the pitch at Stamford Bridge. It’s much bigger than that. It represents England against Spain, the Premier League against La Liga, tiki-taka versus counter-attacking football, good versus evil, and right against wrong. This is one of those matches where there’ll be few neutrals. You either love or hate Barcelona, and hate or love Chelsea.
It’s also going to be a match that will be extremely tense. Every push, dive, tackle, shirt pull and foul will be scrutinized. The longer the game goes on without a goal, the less attractive it’ll become. A goal for either team will be the salvation that TV networks will wish for. Once one goal goes in, the tension will vanish and it’ll finally become a soccer match. Without a goal, this could turn into another ugly cage match (let us not forget the ugly scenes after Barcelona beat Chelsea on the away goals rule in May, 2009 — the one immortalized by Drogba’s f**king disgrace rant).
Barcelona’s gameplan will be no surprise today. They’ll play their typical brand of possession-based football, with a pressing game whenever they lose the ball. But there are several question marks about Chelsea. Will Roberto Di Matteo play Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres up front? But, more importantly, what type of tactics will Chelsea play under the leadership of Di Matteo? Will we see Chelsea playing an anti-football game that features tough tackling and counter-attacking football, letting Barcelona play with the ball and shutting them down anytime they get close to the Chelsea box? We’ve seen that tactic so many times before by Premier League teams and, specifically Chelsea under Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti. It can work, but it’s a dangerous game given Barcelona’s precision in and near the penalty box.
While I continue to be amazed by how wonderful this Barcelona football team is, there’s a lot I despise about them. And it’s the main reason why, even though I’m not a Chelsea supporter, that I would love it if Cbelsea can get a win or a draw today even though I know they’ll lose. What bothers me the most about Barcelona is the way they carry themselves. Many of their players are egotistical, manipulative play actors who have a holier-than-thou attitude and who crowd the referee and try to bend the rules in their favor. They are the masters of feigning injury, and scoring by any means necessary including hands of god, when needed.
Of course, Chelsea are no saints either. But Barcelona certainly has a lot to prove to be accepted as a team worthy of their plaudits. That’s why today’s game is so important. If Barcelona will win, more power to them — as long as they can accomplish it as true heroes, not frauds.
Today’s match between Chelsea and Barcelona may end up being more an example of psychological warfare than footballing brilliance. The world will be watching. Many of them to take out their knives, to slaughter Chelsea, England and Premier League soccer. In this battle between good and evil, I’m hoping that Chelsea will rise to the occasion and beat Barcelona — for Britain, for the underdog, for right versus wrong and, most importantly of all, to end the world’s love affair with everything Barcelona.
Editor’s note: EPL Talk will have an open thread on this site before, during and after the match today.