As Barcelona played against Chelsea it was the first time many pundits found the Catalan giants lacking intensity and an attacking threat. In the past, it was a joy to watch Barcelona but it was more of a chore in their tie against the English champions. The performance may have led to thoughts regarding the summer decision to sell Neymar. Andreas Christensen’s suicide ball across his own box was a gift to Barcelona. Lionel Messi was on hand to score and get Barcelona out of jail.
Top of La Liga and unbeaten, one may think this side is a return to the Barcelona squads of the past. In comparison to the great Barcelona sides of 2009-2011. It was noted there was a lack of urgency which made watching them very difficult. Those Pep Guardiola sides had a very high-intensity pressing style, however, this side lacked pace and that was clear when Willian was able to break on numerous occasions.The likes of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets were unable to keep up with the Brazilian midfielder. Chelsea was able to defend against this side as no one was able to stretch the English defence.
Missing Neymar/Coutinho and Dembele watches on
The game at Stamford Bridge may have been the situation where Barcelona felt Neymar’s loss. The Brazilian had the pace and trickery to interchange with Messi and Suarez. Without Neymar, they may struggle to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich who are able to trouble Barcelona at the back. Paulinho has surprised many with his goal scoring exploits but he lacks the ability to cause issues with his movement. When Ousmane Dembele was bought in the summer for £100m it was widely felt he would bring pace and penetration to the team. However, a combination of injuries and lack of form meant he stayed on the bench last night. The signs are ominous for the Frenchman as the coach opted to bring on Portuguese transfer flop Andre Gomes. Phillip Coutinho, ineligible in this competition, again will provide wizardry and vision but does not have the pace necessary.
Chelsea not out of it yet
Many have written Chelsea off having conceded an away goal, however, they are not facing a truly great Barcelona side. With the likes of Hazard and Willian, they are more than capable to go to Spain and score. Back in 2012, Ramires and Fernando Torres famously scored in the Nou Camp and that was against a better Barcelona side. Barcelona will be keen to regain the European title from their rivals Real Madrid.
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