It doesn’t get much bigger than this does it?
If you can’t get excited about the occasion, you are at the wrong place – European nights are always such a special occasion but tonight is about getting one big toe in the semi final of the Champions League.
As Arsene Wenger pointed out, we have so many things in common with Barca, the breeding of young players, playing beautiful football which is why there is so much hype around the game. Guardiola has said he won’t sacrifice his attacking football, neither will Wenger, setting up a fantastic scenario for football fans all over the globe. I hope we shall not be dissappointed.
Lets talk tactics
I’ve been saying here on Avenell Road that Barca are a formidable opponent, they are the European and World Champions after winning a commendable six trophies last term by brushing aside the likes of chavs, mancs and bayern so you should expect a tough match. Last term they played in a 4-3-3 system with Henry, Eto’o and Messi destroying defences left, right and centre. However Pep admitted that teams have figured them out hence he needed to change tactics to keep opponents guessing.
This term barca are playing in a 4-2-1-1-1-1 formation.Their two CB’s are mainly Puyol and Pique with Milito and Marquez as cover. They have two fullbacks in Alves and Maxwell/Abidal.
Alves is the most dangerous FB going forward since he is quick and has superb delivery. Maxwell doesn’t push as far to prevent counter attacks. Their CB’s are good ball players and will push forward when Barca are dominating, acting as extra midfielders.
Talking of which, in midfield they play with a holding player, (Toure/Sergio) a deep-lying creative man in Xavi and ahead of them is Iniesta/Keita to the left, playing the attacking role, linking play from the left wing just like Rosicky does for us.
Ahead of the attacking midfield man is Messi towards the right and Henry/Pedro towards the left and Ibra up top. Ibra has most shots on target in the Champions League(17), it would be suicidal to give him space, he has three goals in three games, he’s a player on form.
When barca are dominating, Alves patrolls the right flank giving Messi the freedom to cut inside. Messi will then run at the defence which will retreat deeper. This leads to plenty of space behind Messi for Xavi and Iniesta to dominate the midfield.
Henry/Pedro will use the left flank to pin the winger and full back to prevent Maxwell from being exposed in defence. Pedro is so underrated, he scores in the big games. Once Barca get you into this position it becomes a matter of damage control. The Chavs and Mancs can absorb pressure all day long but in truth we can’t do it. If a team shows the slightest of fear Barca will tear you apart, so how do you stop them?
The Chavs used a right back to stop Messi from cutting in since he will always attack a defender’s weaker foot. If Messi got past Bosingwa he would meet Essien stationed in front of the back four, because of that, Messi was invincible for 180 minutes.
To do that, the Chavs maintained a high level of discipline which i don’t think we have yet. For us we will have to battle them in midfield. Iniesta is a very good passer of the ball and is a good dribbler hence he can craft space in the meanest of defences but he won’t be available. This will probably mean Keita will start, he is a more physical player and he carries that extra goal threat Iniesta lacks.
Cesc will have to dominate the middle, Song will have to stay in front of the defence since they will try to expose Sol against Messi. Diaby will have to hustle the ball all over the pitch, his moments of brilliance will be needed if we are to score, his runs from deep will be vital since Cesc will get all the attention. Diaby and Song will have to relish the physical battle against Toure and Keita and come out winners.
I think Sagna will start due to his defensive nous, Clichy will have his hands full with Messi and Alves attacking him, he will need all the help he can get. AA will have to come alive in this match, push back Alves to deny Messi a free role in this match.
This is where I feel the game will be won or lost, Barca’s orchestra starts here.
AA has been woeful in front of goal but he is our ace in the pack, if he isn’t fired up for this he better not show up in the stadium. Nasri/Rosicky will have to help Cesc patrol the midfield. Nasri ,AA and Diaby should dribble when necessary. Nasri can take care of Maxwell all day long.
Eboue for me, is our trump card. He combines pace with strength with feints and dummies which baffle defenders, his diagonal runs are usually very effective as he draws defenders and creates panic in defences.Whether he will start is up to Wenger.
Shooting should be encouraged since Valdez flaps at well hit shots. TR7/Sol/Cesc/AA/Gallas experiences in such matches will be vital if we are to emerge victorious. We need to kill them off with our chances, the killer instinct will have to be on display tonight, right from the start!!
Barca maintain possession for about 48 minutes per match and with Mmessi surrounded by good ball holders he becomes the shark in the sea receiving balls at all angles. Man marking him will end in disaster since he will create space for Keita who scores goals from midfield, unlike Iniesta who doesn’t get into the box often.
We will have to chase them down everywhere, the fans will have to shout the loudest, make themselves heard above eveything else in London.
Barca would love to win it at the Bernabeu to insult the Madristas, we will have to want it more, we will have to show the necessary character to win the tie. As much as we fear Messi – Pep will fear our attack too.
Give Henry an ovation that will make the legend feel humbled, after all he has given us perfomances we will cherish for the rest of our lives, he deserves it.
After that it’s about us!!
Barca don’t concede a lot since teams are too intimidated to attack, their centre backs are vulnerable from quick forwards making runs and this is where Walcott and Eboue’s diagonal runs can hurt them the most. Long balls to Nik will also unsettle them. Fans should let them know that they may rule europe but not this part of North London, we are in charge here, this is our night….
Finally, we did it in Milan when Kaka was meant to tear us a new one, we did it in Madrid, tonight we will do it in London!!
Lets do for Arsenal, lets do it tonight for David ‘Rocky’ Rocastle – he’d have loved to be playing in this game, make him proud….
Written by KTR-7