For all those neutrals out there who may not have seen Barcelona play before this season I would encourage you not to write off the Catalan side based on just one performance. I have seen Barca break down some stubborn resistance at the Nou Camp this season both in La Liga and the Champions League but the game against Chelsea was a different kettle of fish. For the neutrals Tuesday night’s game was a huge disappointment but for Chelsea what a result.
They stopped the best attacking side in the world with relative ease, albeit playing a brand of football that certainly wasn’t easy on the eye. For those Blues fans who want Jose Mourinho back at Stamford Bridge your prayers have been answered because he seems to have taken the form of Guus Hiddink based on Tuesday night’s display. I can’t stand teams that play like this but understand why you would do it against a team like Barcelona. Manchester United did a similar thing last season when they went to the Nou Camp, albeit up against a Barcelona side who weren’t in the same form that the current one is.
As a defensive exercise Chelsea were brilliant, Michael Essien and Michael Ballack worked supremely hard in midfield, closing down Andreas Iniesta and Xavi constantly to halt the goal machine that is Barca. However the standout performer for the Blues was Petr Cech, the keeper whose form this season has been called into question on a number of occasions. Cech made a series of brilliant saves from the handful of chances Barcelona did create to keep the visitors in it.
Barcelona weren’t at their sparkling best and perhaps given a chance to get their rhythm going things could have been very different. As it is Chelsea will certainly take this result, becoming the first side to keep Barcelona from scoring at the Nou Camp this season. I think Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry might be having nightmares about yellow walls for the next few nights after coming up against one on Tuesday.
Looking ahead to the second leg and Chelsea having to open up may give Barcelona the edge they are looking for. Stamford Bridge doesn’t quite create the intimidating atmosphere you get at the Nou Camp and with the quality they have Chelsea will still have to be very careful as they go in search of a goal. Had Didier Drogba taken the chance he worked for himself in the first half then it would be advantage Chelsea but there is still nothing to choose between the sides and my football prediction remains that this contest between beauty and the beast could go right to the wire.
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