Chelsea V Barcelona: How the Blues Can Stop Lionel Messi at Stamford Bridge

Rob GreissingerCorrespondent IIApril 16, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 10:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona controls the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Getafe CF at the Camp Nou stadium on April 10, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Stopping Barcelona's Lionel Messi is like trying to stop a fat kid from eating cake (if you get the reference, then kudos to you). It is possible but very unlikely. 

Sir Alex Ferguson actually hired two people, including his own brother, to study Messi after Manchester United lost to Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League final. 

The former Bolton, Newcastle and Blackburn boss, Sam Allardyce, said man-marking Messi will not be an option for United.

“Nobody’s good enough to man-mark him—Lionel Messi could elude anybody," Allardyce told the Sun last year. "What you have to do, as a player, is make sure that you’re aware of him. Whenever Messi is in your area or in your space, you’ve got to take responsibility for him."

Des Kelly wrote quite a piece for the Daily Mail that was comical. It said that "Ferguson was advised to man-mark Lionel Messi with Darren Fletcher, or Park Ji-sung or Ryan Giggs. To man-mark Xavi, too. And Andres Iniesta."

That was Manchester United and they did lose 3-1 to Barcelona at Wembley. 

So how does Chelsea beat Barcelona at Stamford Bridge?

First of all they have to avoid a Tom Henning Ovrebo situation. Ovrebo, the referee in the 2009 match at Stamford Bridge, did not award Chelsea a penalty on four separate occasions. Didier Drogba looked right into a TV camera and said that Ovrebo was "bleeping disgrace."

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 06:  Barcelona celebrate victory in the UEFA Champions League Semi Final match between Chelsea and Barcelona as Juliano Belletti of Chelsea looks dejected at Stamford Bridge on May 6, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonal
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

All kidding aside, there is no solid answer.

John Terry is getting up there in age, so his speed is in question. He will have to use his leadership skills to direct traffic. 

Ashley Cole, Jose Bosigwa and  Branislav Ivanovic are fullbacks and cannot move inside to protect against Messi getting past the back line. 

David Luiz and his hair may be the answer. If David Luiz can get the body on Messi for the whole match, then there's a chance. However, there is no guarantee that will work. Messi is the type of guy that could get away from contact in tight spaces because of his size. He has the ability to get the ball past defenders in that situation. 

Marking Messi is maybe an option. 

Petr Cech will be the last man standing should Messi get past the back line and in that case, the odds of Cech saving it go down immensely.  

Chelsea have been inconsistent all season. Their rent-a-manager tactics have not worked. Jose Mourinho is the only name that can be considered a legend at Chelsea like Ferguson (Manchester United) or Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool) have for their clubs. Mourinho loved his time at Chelsea. Why he left is a mystery. Regardless, Mourinho may want to give his former club some advice on defending Messi, but even he has trouble defending Messi these days. 

Messi is in the prime of his career. Messi's prime may last a lot longer than other great players. They don't compare him to Pele and Maradona for fun. 

Chelsea are in trouble no matter which angle you look at it. It may be matter of slowing him down, rather than shutting him down completely.

Plus with Chelsea just playing in the FA Cup Semi-Final, the odds are even longer since they will not be at full strength. 

One thing is for certain. Nobody watching or playing in the match will be able to not keep their eye off Messi.