HOW YOU CAN BEAT BARCA

Daily Mail - - Champions League - By PETE JEN­SON

STOP­PING Barcelona has been be­yond ev­ery­one in La Liga for a good while. They have not lost in Spain for 31 weeks, but they have looked vul­ner­a­ble at times.

Sportsmail looks at the weak­nesses Chelsea can ex­ploit.

THE WAT­FORD WAY?

Chelsea might find part of the an­swer at Vicarage Road. Wat­ford coach Javi Gra­cia did well against Barcelona. In 2014-15, Barca won the tre­ble but Gra­cia’s Malaga beat them 1-0 at the Nou Camp and drew at home.

WHAT WAS HIS SE­CRET?

He wasn’t con­cerned about Barca hav­ing the ball in wide ar­eas or in their own half. The idea was that if you get drawn into wide ar­eas, you are leav­ing space in front of goal. Make things con­gested in the penalty area and don’t get stretched. It worked.

HAVEN’T BARCA CHANGED?

They still play a very high line. You need strong run­ners who can ex­ploit the huge space be­hind their de­fence. It is not a game for a cen­tre for­ward with a lovely touch but no pace. It’s more a job for a winger who can get be­hind the full back and make quick runs at goal. The best ex­am­ple was John Guidetti’s goal for Alaves in Jan­uary, when Sa­muel Umtiti was left up the pitch and couldn’t get back.

BUT THEIR FOR­MA­TION IS NOW 4-4-2, ISN’T IT?

As much as you can nail down their for­ma­tion, then yes. When they go for­ward there is al­ways a third player in at­tack, be it Paulinho or An­dres Ini­esta from midfield, or one of the full backs, but they fall into a 4-4-2 with­out the ball. Maybe that’s why they con­ceded only once in the group stage.

IT’S STILL A BIG CHANGE FROM 4-3-3...

Yes, Ney­mar has gone and no­body has di­rectly re­placed him. Jordi Alba has a lot more li­cence to get for­ward from left back and of­ten ends up in ‘Ney­mar ter­ri­tory’.

WHAT HAVE OTHER TEAMS TRIED?

Es­panyol de­fended very deep in the first half in two cup games. In the sec­ond half they put on a sec­ond for­ward and took sev­eral steps up the pitch. They drew the first leg 1-1 but Barca won the sec­ond 2-0. Oth­ers sat on Ser­gio Bus­quets to make it more dif­fi­cult for Barca to pass out from the back, forc­ing them to go long.

SO, NO MAT­TER WHAT, BARCA STILL WIN...

Well, Eibar and Es­panyol did not have N’Golo Kante to track Messi, nor Eden Hazard and Pe­dro for counter-at­tacks. An­to­nio Conte has more re­sources at his dis­posal and Barca are well aware of that, too.

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