Cesc Fabregas: Chelsea are back to the long game

Barça man says tonight's opponents have given up patient approach under Di Matteo

The Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas raised the stakes ahead of tonight's Champions League semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge when he said that Chelsea had tried to change under Andre Villas-Boas but had reverted back to their old tried and trusted direct style since his dismissal.

The former Arsenal midfielder said more than once yesterday that his new club faced the Chelsea "we all know" in what will be the English club's sixth semi-final in nine years in the Champions League. Speaking at Stamford Bridge, Fabregas, 24, said that Chelsea had attempted to adopt a different approach under which they built the game up from the back earlier this season, but had abandoned it since.

Fabregas said: "What happened with Villas-Boas was they played more from the back, trying to keep possession and take the initiative. They've gone back to the type of Chelsea that was more successful a few years ago with [Roberto] Di Matteo: playing on the counter, trying to hit the target man, sitting back and using that No 9 as a reference point."

 

Later he added that Chelsea were in the best form of their season, but maintained that the team had "not changed a lot". "With Villas-Boas maybe they tried to change a bit, but they're now the same Chelsea as when I left [Arsenal last summer]," he said.

It is not yet clear whether Di Matteo will opt for Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres in attack, and he also has a choice to make in midfield between Frank Lampard, who played against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, and Raul Meireles. The signs yesterday were that it would be Lampard who would play.

Lampard denied that Chelsea were as predictable as Fabregas might have suggested. He said: "We're mixing the powerful, organised, disciplined game with some very good attacking football. On our day, we can be a match for everyone. But we respect that Barcelona are not only the in-form team now, but the dominant team of the last few years. So we have to be at our best."

Chelsea have not lost a game to Barcelona in the Champions League since the 2-1 defeat in February 2006 at the Nou Camp. They have not lost any of the eight games they have played against Barcelona under the Roman Abramovich regime when they have managed to keep 11 players on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.

With the feeling now that they are weaker than at any time over the seven years they have faced Barcelona, Pep Guardiola warned that Chelsea still represent formidable opponents.

Guardiola dismissed the question of whether he would one day like to manage Chelsea out of hand as "fantasy". "It's hypothetical," he said. "I'm coach of Barcelona. Chelsea have a very good manager because, in the last 10 games, they've made unbelievable results. It's not the time to be talking about that."

On Chelsea, Guardiola said: "They have the same spirit, the same soul, the same foundation. They've changed the manager and a couple of players, but the same players are largely there. I do admire that generation, who have done so well over the last seven years and have got into so many semi-finals and finals, and competed in the Premier League so well. That's not easy. It will be exciting to play them."

Di Matteo confirmed that he will be without the Brazilian centre-back David Luiz, who picked up a hamstring injury on Sunday and will be back in two weeks. The manager said that he knew Barcelona were not always comfortable playing against his club. "They don't like to play against us," he said. "The results in the past show ... we've shown we're a team who can give them problems."

Fabregas courted further controversy when he said that he had been tactically inept at Arsenal and had only learnt how to play in a disciplined fashion since joining Barcelona in the summer. He said: "Before I was free to do whatever on the pitch at Arsenal, and I wasn't tactically good. I was playing wherever I wanted, up and down. Here [at Barcelona] I have to work much more for the team, individually, and think about the team tactically."

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own