While Barcelona finished second in the group stages to AC Milan, one would’ve expected them to face a tough team. They faced the table toppers from Group H, Chelsea, who had been doing wonders under new manager Jose Mourinho. Having won the European Cup in the previous season with Porto, the Portuguese needed no introduction into the competition.

Barcelona hosted Chelsea in Spain and came away with a 2-1 lead from the first leg as the referee had turned the game upside down. Chelsea were in control until Drogba’s controversial red card and after that instance Barca grew into the game. Barcelona used the numerical advantage to good terms as they came back from behind. Much happened in the next leg however, as Chelsea invited the Spanish Giants to the Stamford Bridge.

Line ups

Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona | 1

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Chelsea (4-4-2) | Manager: Jose Mourinho

1.Petr Cech –  20.Paulo Ferreira, 6.Ricardo Carvalho, 26.John Terry, 13.William Gallas – 4.Claude Makelele, 8.Frank Lampard, 10.Joe Cole, 11.Damien Duff – 22.Eidur Gudjohnsen, 9.Mateja Kezman.

Barcelona (4-3-3) | Manager: Frank Rijkaard

1.Victor Valdes – 2.Juliano Belletti, 5.Carles Puyol, 23.Oleguer, 12.Giovanni van Bronckhorst – 6.Xavi, 14.Gerard Lopez, 20.Deco – 24.Andres Iniesta, 10.Ronaldinho, 9.Samuel Eto’o

Needing to win the game 1-0 or by a margin of two goals, it was pretty open that Chelsea had to get on the score sheet to win the tie. Mourinho who had favoured the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 hybrid in major parts of the season, reverted to a 4-4-1-1 with diamond in the centre. Due to the absence of Drogba, the Portuguese made a tactical switch by changing the set-up which saw Mateja Kezman play off the shoulders of Gudjohnsen who lead the attack.

Claude Makelele played at the heart of the midfield while Joe Cole and Damien Duff played on either side of the half spaces. Lampard, being the key going forward, completed the diamond in the centre. In defence, the back four of Ferreira, Carvalho, John Terry and Gallas guarded Petr Cech’s goal.

For Barcelona, Rijkaard started Victor Valdes in between the sticks as Belletti, Puyol, Oleguer and van Bronckhorst played ahead of him in defence. The midfield trio was comprised of Xavi, Gerard Lopez and Deco while Andres Iniesta started alongside Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o in the attack. Iniesta would be the shape shifter of side providing the balance between midfield and attack as he would often deep down to play diagonal balls out wide.

Chelsea’s press and defensive marking

Barcelona started the game exactly the way they finished the first leg at the Nou Camp. The opening few minutes of the game saw Barcelona dominate most of the possession in the first and second third with no real threat in the Chelsea defensive area. Starting in their basic 4-4-1-1 shape, Chelsea defended in two banks of four off the ball with Kezman often joining the midfield to help out the numbers in the middle.

While Barca had the ball, Chelsea pressed them setting out in a 4-4-2, with both the forwards occupying the centre backs, Puyol and Oleguer. In most occasions, individual defensive duties was often seen as Carvalho was often asked to track back Ronaldinho and he would even mark him just about when the Brazilian is to receive a pass.

The defender was so tightly marking that Ronaldinho had to step into the midfield to collect a pass and play a diagonal ball. His intentions in these movements were to find Deco or Iniesta who would’ve drifted into the centre. However Mourinho’s risk in deploying Carvalho to follow the Brazilian deep into the midfield worked wonders here. Carvalho won the individual battle in most instances through pressing.

Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona | 2

From the above image we can understand the movements of Ronaldinho and Carvalho’s marking.

On the other hand, both Cole and Duff were given with the duties of marking van Bronckhorst and Belletti while Lampard had been asked to see out Deco. In most instances, Gudjohnsen was often seen dropping deep into the midfield while Kezman stayed upfront. These movements were done as Chelsea positioned themselves in a 4-1-4-1 position with Gudjohnsen joining Lampard in the centre.

The image below shows Chelsea’s diamond in their right as Barca looked to carry the ball through the flanks.

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In the right side, during Barcelona’s possession, Chelsea even formed a situational diamond to stay compact. This was because Barcelona often looked to create numerical advantage in that flank with Ronaldinho dropping back and Eto’o joining in from the centre. Xavi and Gerard Lopez looked to float in to the left flank as well.

As most of the attack from Barcelona was stifled by Chelsea’s astute defensive movements, Chelsea were easily able to win the ball back and hit them in counters. These movements are shown in the video below.

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One of the key factors for the successfully seeing out the Barcelona attack was the compact 4-1-4-1 structure and this can be seen in the image below. From the image we can see how close Duff and Cole are close to Deco and Xavi while Makelele takes care of the sweeping behind the midfield four.

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Barcelona 4-3-3 vs Chelsea 4-1-4-1.

Chelsea score thrice in quick succession

Much to everyone’s surprise, Mourinho was able to set up his side in the attacking tempo as Chelsea looked to pounce on every mistake and hit them on the counters in turnovers. Chelsea were very quick and fast in transitions when compared to Barcelona who left oceans of space as they looked to play in their possession based play.

Just before the 20 minutes mark, Chelsea were 3-0 up thanks to some sensational counter-attacking moves. Lampard was the key going forward as he found spaces in which the wide players were able to move into centrally. The video below shows how Lampard was able to construct the counter attack. Kezman runs with the ball in the right who was found by Lampard and he plays it to the striker in the final moment as Gudjohnsen scored the first goal.

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Also the video below shows the second goal scored by Chelsea. Once again Chelsea targeting the right flank and this time Cole wins the 1v1 against Bronckhorst as he cuts inside the centre from the right. Once again Barcelona failed to cover the space due to the bodies that were committed forward.

 

In the 19th minute, Eto’o lost the ball in the second third thanks to brilliant pressing by his marker in opponent colours. The pass was directly fed to Kezman by Carvalho who laid it off to Lampard and the no.8 responded by finding Duff with oceans of space ahead of him. Duff moved in centrally from the wings once the transition started and he was able to capitalize in the 1v1 against Valdes to score Chelsea’s third.

The video below explains the above instance where Lampard constructed the brilliant team play.

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Barcelona’s comeback – Ronaldinho the key

Just as Chelsea looked to obliterate Barcelona out from the tournament, the Spanish side scored two goals in no time. The 3-2 score line meant that Barcelona now had the advantage of away goals and Chelsea had to start right from the scratch to go to the next stage. A penalty from Ronaldinho opened up Barcelona’s account. The second goal was a brilliant individual goal from the same man as Barca went 4-4 in aggregate.

Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona | 5

Image credits: DailyMail

Ronaldinho positioned himself in the centre received the pass from the left as he is blocked by three Chelsea players and no one ahead of him. The Brazilian tried a few swings and dummies just before sending the ball in the goal guarded by Petr Cech who was blinded by the defenders. It was one of the exquisite goals scored by Ronaldinho as he generated great power and accuracy from a standing position.

in the second half – Job done for Mourinho and his men

In the second half while many would’ve wanted Mourinho to make an attacking substitution, Mourinho made a defensive change by bringing in Glen Johnson for Ferreira. Instead of wanting for score another goal Mourinho wanted to improve the defensive strategy and stop Barcelona from scoring another goal. By doing this Mourinho had the chance of maintaining the same score and wanted his side to pop up at any chance Barcelona provide them their way.

As the match reached the hour mark, Barcelona were the side attacking and the London team defended their goal in major instances. Both Duff and Cole played wide in the midfield as Lampard and Gudjohnsen played on either side of Makelele. This created a situational 4-5-1 for Chelsea who looked to pounce on the counters.

With Samuel Eto’o missing out on a very easy chance to put Barcelona level on terms for the night, Chelsea won a corner on the other end. Just like Mourinho would’ve wanted someone to rise for the occasion, the captain leaped high to head the ball into the goal to score his fourth Champions League goal of the season. As Chelsea got the 1-0 cushion, Mourinho immediately made the change by bringing in Tiago and it was understandable as he wanted to the remove the striker for the midfielder to provide more support going backwards.

Conclusion

As Barcelona had needed just one more goal to qualify, Rijkaard rang in changes offensively in the final minutes. He brought in the super sub Maxi Lopez who had scored in the previous leg at the Camp Nou minutes after coming on from the bench. However he couldn’t replicate the same against Mourinho and his men as Barcelona were sent out of the tournament thanks to a Mourinho master class.

The victory pushed Mourinho towards another step of winning the trophy again which he had won previously with Porto the year before. However Chelsea had lost the semi final against Liverpool who would go on to produce history against AC Milan in Istanbul.

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Saiguhan Elancheran

Co-Founder and Manager here. An ardent Manchester City fan. Loves Pep Guardiola as well as Mourinho, with an affinity towards defensively brilliant teams. Idolizes Julian Nagelsmann.
Saiguhan Elancheran