Chelsea vs. Barcelona: 4 Reasons Blues Will Advance to Champions League Final

Louis Hamwey@thecriterionmanAnalyst IIIApril 24, 2012

Chelsea vs. Barcelona: 4 Reasons Blues Will Advance to Champions League Final

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    Chelsea are only one game away from making their second ever Champions League final. With a 1-0 advantage over their opposition, Barcelona, going into Camp Nou, there is good reason for fans who bleed blue to be confident ahead of the showdown.

    The defensive game plan, which surprised no one in the first leg, was executed to perfection by Chelsea. They stifled the Barcelona attack and even created a shock goal out of it, as Frank Lampard forced Lionel Messi into a turnover in midfield, leading to Didier Drogba’s goal.

    However, things will not be as convenient this time around. Not only are Chelsea fighting against Barca looking to overturn the deficit, but Barca will also be looking to get back on track after being all but mathematically eliminated from La Liga contention after their loss to Real Madrid on the weekend.

    It was the first time the Catalans suffered back-to-back losses in almost three years.

    But with all that, I am still confident Chelsea will progress. This article is written from a fan, by a fan and for Chelsea fans. It is a fluff piece meant to get those excited for the game ahead. There is no objectivity, and it is driven more by fandomhood than levelheadedness.

    So feel free to disagree all you want, but understand you will only be arguing with someone who is mad with excitement. I wrote one before the Napoli match and one before the first against Benfica, so it would be stupid for me not to do the same now.

    Here are four reasons Chelsea will shock everyone (but Chelsea fans) and make it to the Champions League final.

Petr Cech

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    Drogba may have been the one to get the crucial goal in the first leg and Lampard the one who made the crucial play to make it happen, but it is undeniable who the real man of the match is. As a Chelsea fan, you have almost become numb to the notion of conceding soft goals due to the man they have in net.

    Cech got off to a slow start to this campaign but has since returned to his prominence as one of the world’s very best. He is stable, confident and error free—all the aspects you want in your keeper. On top of that he is tall, athletic and incredibly gifted at making saves.

    He single-handedly kept the Blues in the game with what were routine and textbook saves, but also the kind that can occasionally make even the best give up a weak rebound or let one slip through.

    More than that, you can see his presence and reputation intimidate the Barca players into over-thinking their shots. Twice was Alexis Sanchez put off by the thought of Cech coming out on him.

    Statistically, few keepers have pestered Messi and Co. as much as he has over the years. Cech has never conceded more than two goals to Barca, and never more than one in their past four meetings. If he can keep to those averages Tuesday night, then Chelsea has an excellent chance of progressing.

Barca Feeling the Pressure

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    It seems like a generation ago that you saw sweat beading down the Barca players' necks. The fluidity and methodical pace they play with has them as one of the most efficient teams in the world and rarely huffing and puffing at the end of a match.

    But this time, they may be sweating before they even take the pitch as the pressure starts to mount on the home side. After losing to Madrid, Barca must beat Chelsea to retain any hope of coming away this season with a major trophy.

    Guardiola recognizes the urgency of the match (via ESPN):

    What happens against Chelsea will mark the rest of our season. Although the guys have not had long to recover, they have had setbacks like this before and risen to the challenge.

    Confident as any good coach would be, he also probably recognizes the odd place his team is currently in, entering the match with perhaps a bit of doubt and belief in their own mortality. You could say whatever you would like about Barca and their style of play, but one thing you could never reasonably argue is their lacking confidence.

    It seems to be a little below the normal level now, and it could be enough to see them fall.

Chelsea Are Rested

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    While Guardiola was forced to go all-out Saturday against Madrid, knowing that it was a must-win for both pride and chances at a league title, Roberto Di Matteo opted for the Champions League match as the No. 1 priority, making eight changes to the side that faced Arsenal.

    Only Cech, John Terry and Gary Cahill started Saturday against the Gunners, and even then they were able to achieve a better result than Barcelona.

    It will be very interesting to see how Pep lines his team up today as the notables—Messi, Iniesta, Xavi—will get the start, but how alert will they be coming off of such a difficult match over the weekend? Will the wear and tear of three massive and physical games over the span of a week be too much to overcome?

    Chelsea’s players are much more susceptible to this kind of reaction, but all got the rest needed to make sure they are fresh in Spain. That may be the tiny bit of difference between the two, just one side being a little quicker and a bit more apt to play that decides the game.

    If so, Chelsea clearly have the advantage and could outlast Barca in the end.

Why Not?

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    It seems every time Chelsea have come up to a moment of impossibility under Di Matteo, they have overcome it, especially in cup competitions. Their very best performances under his guidance have been in elimination style tournaments where a win-or-go-home mentality has the veterans knowing how to do what is needed to advance.

    It happened against Napoli, then Benfica, then Tottenham. Going into the first leg of this tie, few outside of the Blue nation expected anything less than a multiple-goal thrashing at the hands of the Catalans. But once again, Chelsea has ruined the prediction machines and come out on top.

    Why would it not happen again? Just because Barca is at home, Messi has gone too long without scoring or they have been lucky? All rubbish!

    Chelsea will get by Barcelona simply because they seem destined to. It would be ironic if the year that seemingly turned the club inside out also resulted in one of their greatest achievements. So why try to mess with the gods of the game, who clearly have a sick sense of humor?

Why Do You Think Chelsea Will Advance?

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    Like I said from the beginning, this is a fluff piece. It is meant to make Chelsea fans excited for the match ahead and encourage them to the positives of their team. Now a nice by-product of this is that it will infuriate Barca supporters and have them coming out of the woodwork to lay siege on my words.

    So please come at me with your best shot. Throw all the stats and history you want in my face because it will fall on deaf ears. There is nothing you or anyone can say that will bring me down off my mountain of confidence.

    But for the Chelsea fans out there, why do you think the Blues will be playing in Munich?

    As always, please leave your comments below and thanks for reading!


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