One way to beat Barça: give them the ball... It worked for Mourinho
In the past three seasons Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have all been outwitted by the Catalans – but last year Internazionale showed one way to beat Europe's entertainers
Wednesday 16 February 2011
Barcelona v Chelsea
May 2009, 1-1 on aggregate, Barcelona win on away goals
Chelsea's caretaker-manager Guus Hiddink was roundly criticised for his negative tactics in the first leg in the Nou Camp, with a five-man muscular midfield including the likes of John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Michael Essien that smothered the Barcelona full-backs. For the second leg at Stamford Bridge Hiddink played Nicolas Anelka in place of Mikel in a more attacking move, and almost managed to win, until Andres Iniesta's stoppage-time equaliser, following an error from Essien, put Barça through on away goals. Chelsea thought referee Tom Henning Ovrebo should have given them three penalties.
Manchester United v Barcelona
May 2009, RomeBarcelona win 2-0
Sir Alex Ferguson tried to keep things solid by opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Wayne Rooney starting wide on the left and Cristiano Ronaldo the lone striker. However, the tactic backfired as Ronaldo was left isolated, and the deep midfield pairing of Michael Carrick and Anderson were left exposed and could not cope with the swift passing of Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Ronaldo afterwards pointed the finger of blame at Ferguson, saying: "The tactics were not good and everything went wrong for us." He moved to Real Madrid for £80m later that summer.
Arsenal v Barcelona
March 2010 Barcelona win 6-3 on aggregate
Arsenal took on the Spanish giants at their own game, and were totally outclassed for a scintillating 20-minute spell in the first leg at The Emirates with Abou Diaby and Alex Song unable to win the ball back. Arsenal went 2-0 down before recovering to draw 2-2, after Theo Walcott came off the bench in the 66th minute and scared the life out of the visitors. Arsenal took the lead in the return leg, when Walcott set up Nicklas Bendtner, and had chances to score again before Lionel Messi took charge and scored four times in a remarkable performance.
Internazionale v Barcelona
April 2010, Inter win 3-2 on aggregate
Jose Mourinho's Inter kept it ridiculously tight and managed to win 3-1 at the San Siro thanks to discipline and a fair degree of gamesmanship, using every trick in the book to disrupt Barcelona's rhythm. They conceded free-kicks in harmless areas, pressurised the officials, denied the full-backs the space to rampage forward, and pounced on Messi as quickly as possible. After the second leg Mourinho delivered the most depressing quote of the year – "We didn't want the ball because when Barcelona press and win the ball back, we lose our position – I never want to lose position on the pitch so I didn't want us to have the ball, we gave it away."
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