HOW YOU CAN BEAT BARCA
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.