Its a big night today. Chelsea play Barca away from home and for the first time I'm not really sure who I should be rooting for. Fellow footie freaks say I am Indian first and Catalan next ;-) I would not go as far as that but suffice to say that I've always been a huge fan of this mighty club, the imposing Nou Camp stadium and its demanding supporters. The last couple of years have been particularly tough for die-hards like me (all my teams were struggling: Inter in Italy being the other) but ever since Rijkaard took over things have turned the corner. The fact that Ronaldinho signed up for Barca spurning Man U even when he wasn't assured of Champions league football just goes on to show how big a force Barca are in Europe. Under Joan Laporta's stewardship, Rijkaard has made a lot of shrewd summer signings like Guily, Deco and Eto and all of them have paid back the manager handsomely as a result of which, Barca should hopefully win the Liga and also go far in the Champions League this season.
Chelsea on the other hand have been my favorite club ever since I started watching EPL in TV. No one can deny the fact that the Chelsea revolution under Jose Mourinho and Roman Abramovich will go down in history as one of the biggest success stories in English football. Mourinho is without any doubt a brilliant man manager, a ruthless task master and an astute tactician. However last week's loss to Newcastle in the FA Cup also showed that Chelsea are not unbeatable and might have to pay the price for being involved in too many competitions. Personally I felt Mourinho blundered by ringing in those 3 substitutions at half time with wild hopes of achieving the impossible quadruple. Given that Chelsea were already down by a goal and the pitch and weather was horrible, Chelsea should have given up and preserved the stars from injuries. After all, the best they could have achieved was a draw which would have meant a rematch and only added to their already punishing schedule. Even now I stick to my original claim that the Champions League is too much to aim for in the first season and Chelsea would do good to just gun for the EPL and the Carling Cup. Now with Robben, Duff and Bridge sidelined besides the long term injury to Parker and Man U breathing down their neck, things just look a wee bit tighter.
Whatever the backdrop, Wednesday night promises to me a classy encounter between two of Europe's current form teams. I've tried to do a man-to-man matchup just to see who will do better and here are the results.
I expect Barca to play the 4-4-1-1 and Chelsea to employ their effective 4-1-2-1-2 (the diamond as the laymen call it)
Valdes vs Cech (adv Cech)
Beletti vs Joe Cole (adv Cole)
Puyol vs Drogba (adv Puyol)
Marquez vs Gudjohnsen (even Stevens)
Bronckhorst vs Tiago (adv Bronckhorst)
Albertini vs Makelele (adv Makelele)
Xavi vs Lampard (adv Lampard)
Guily vs Gallas (adv Guily)
Deco vs Paulo Fereira (adv Deco)
Ronaldinho vs Carvalho (even Stevens)
'Eto vs Terry (even Stevens)
I expect this to be a very close match and since the formations are different, it will not be a simple match up as I have shown above. Makelele could have to neutralise Ronaldinho too. For me, the winner of Terry vs 'Eto will decide the fate of the match.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw
My preference: Barca win 1-0