Ahead of the first leg of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, Dominic Fifield fielded your questions on the match
Dominic Fifield was here to discuss Chelsea v Barcelona The webchat is now over. Thanks to all who took part. We have posted questions Dominic responded to here to make it easier to follow. Comments have now been closed on this article.
What are the chances that we start with both Drogba and Torres? ie Torres on the right and Drogba up front. I think then we may have the best of both worlds, power and pace, and who do you think will play in midfield?
Hi ManU85. I really don't see Torres and Drogba starting together. Successive Chelsea managers seemed to have come to the conclusion that they don't work in partnership, and Roberto di Matteo has followed suit. If they have played together this season, it's mainly been when Chelsea have been chasing a game with one coming on as a substitute. Indeed, Cesc Fabregas said last night in the Barcelona press conference that: "One of them will play. They won't play together, Didier and Fernando. They have similar qualities and can bring so much to the team, so many positive things, that we'll be careful whoever plays."
I'm not sure what the "similar qualities" would be. Drogba's game is about power and strength and he seems happiest operating on his own up front, while Torres runs the channels and likes to spin off the defender's shoulder into space behind. He doesn't have much of an opportunity to do that in the Premier League – he might tonight, strangely – but Chelsea will have to hope he can shrug himself back into some of the form of old this evening if he starts. Di Matteo was sleeping on his selection last night, but I have a feeling he might go with Torres…
As for midfield, I went with Mikel (purely defensively minded) and Lampard (influential) in the paper this morning. There's an argument to play Meireles, who is probably the most mobile of the central midfielders currently in favour. Indeed, he could potentially man-mark one of Barca's numerous attack-minded midfielders if necessary. A three of Kalou, Mata and Ramires ahead of them would be my guess.
Messi used to be famous for sometimes bottling it against English teams, not showing up, going missing, being anonymous, and especially when playing in England. Do you think he will again tonight?
No. Can't see him bottling it. The "six games against Chelsea without a goal" statistic feels almost freakish. The last time Messi played the Londoners, he'd 'only' scored 78 goals for Barcelona and was only warming up. That was three years ago, and he's now got 243 to his name. I'd suggest he'll be a different proposition now. One of those earlier goals, scored five years ago today, is featured here and made me chuckle. He really is some player, though that's becoming cliché. It's probably too simplistic to suggest Chelsea should just try and stamp on him early, too. He's too good, and quick, for that.
What's the reason for the sudden disappearance of Oriol Romeu? He was, for a while, the best player Chelsea had had in the Makelele position since Makelele himself. Obviously tonight isn't the night for a re-introduction, but does he have any kind of future at Chelsea beyond this season?
A fair point. I wondered whether it was the curse of the Guardian at first given he has hardly had a look in since we rolled him out as our Saturday interview. He has had a few injuries – a hamstring problem, I think, and he was ill at the weekend – but I suspect he has become a victim of the change in management. He suited the patient, methodical, possession football André Villas-Boas wanted to introduce at Chelsea, building slowly through the middle with the emphasis placed on the accuracy of the pass. I think it's fair to say, as Fabregas alluded to last night, that Chelsea have reverted a bit more to type in recent weeks to haul their season back on track. Theirs is a more direct game these days, with urgency and pressing through the team. Whether Romeu suits that is open to question: it could be argued he slows the team's approach down when he's in possession, albeit largely in a classy way, whereas a Mikel or Essien would provide a more muscular, energetic approach. You can see how Romeu was schooled at Barcelona, and lectured in keeping the ball. He's still considered to be a big player for the club's future, though he'll need a manager coming in who shares something along the lines of Villas-Boas's vision, I suspect.
What role does Sturridge have to play in this game? Considering Barca are likely to play Carles Puyol (their slowest and oldest player) at LB, does it not make sense to play our fastest and most selfish against him?
Sturridge is another who's been forced a bit to the sidelines in recent weeks, perhaps because Di Matteo has placed so much emphasis on the 'collective' over individuals. He was a breath of fresh air before Christmas, though it feels as if his form has become rather more inconsistent recently. He's prone to selfishness, too, and taking on shots when he might be better to set up team-mates. I guess that's partly down to his frustration at playing wide when he sees himself as a central striker, and also to his relative youth. But it's clearly something he needs to work on. If it came down to a toss up between Sturridge and Kalou, I think Di Matteo might go with the more experienced man given his willingness to work for the team, and the success he had over in Benfica. Sturridge would at least then provide fresh legs on the bench if required.
Do you feel the contentious decisions (and result) in the previous semi final between these two will prove to be an unnecessary distraction tonight? and if so, whom do you think will be the most disadvantaged? Chelsea because they feel they were beaten unfairly by Barca, or Barca, who feel affronted by constant accusation that refereeing decisions are all that helped them through to the final.
I can't really see any lingering sense of injustice, from either side, playing much of a part during the game itself. There have been a few comments made in the build-up, and I'm sure there will be again once the tie has concluded, and that all adds to the sense of drama, but during the game it's not going to be an issue. Unless, of course, there are a flurry of contentious decisions that prompt immediate comparisons to 2009. It's important to stress, as my colleague Sid Lowe has detailed in the paper recently, that Barcelona are also apparently driven to 'making amends' for three years ago on some level as they feel everybody (I'm guilty of this, clearly) made more of Tom Henning Ovrebo's erratic performance than their progress in the tie. So they have their own motivation.
If tonight's game is a draw does this mean that Newcastle United are better than Barcelona?
Er. Didn't Newcastle lose to Chelsea at (shameful refusal to call it its adopted name) St James' Park? But probably. Yes.
If Chelsea get a performance tonight from Drogba (say if he comes on and does something), do you think he will start at the Nou Camp?
I'd have thought Torres would be nailed on to start at Camp Nou. I know it's all from a by-gone era, but he does have a remarkable record there from his days at Atletico Madrid as mentioned in today's paper and has special memories of the place. Those, alone, aren't reason to start him but he might relish Barcelona's high-line, particularly given Chelsea will surely be playing on the break in that tie. There's clearly a big argument to pick Drogba against the diminutive Javier Mascherano given his prowess in the air, and his performance against Spurs on Sunday. But Chelsea are fighting on three fronts and have a game at the Emirates to consider on Saturday lunchtime, and Drogba might be better suited to feature in that match. I have my doubts whether he could be as effective as he was against Tottenham only 72 hours later, and to ask him to be so again on Saturday would surely be pushing it too far. Di Matteo has to juggle his resources somewhat, but I wonder if Didier starts the domestic games and Torres begins the Barca matches...
Do the journalists expect Barca to play a 3-4-3 in this tie, like in Milan? If so, do Chelsea need to follow Milan's gameplan and just make use of their "second striker"; ideally Mata to stand a chance tonight?
Those journalists traveling over from Barcelona expected them to play 3-4-3, yes (copying Wigan Athletic, clearly). I don't think that will change Chelsea's system necessarily. They've consistently gone with a 4-2-3-1 under Di Matteo. But the emphasis will always be on Juan Mata to offer something 'different' in this Chelsea team. When Cesc Fabregas talks about them having gone back to what they've done best for years, he rather overlooked the fact that they've integrated Mata into their team so seamlessly and, over the last few weeks, so much of their attacking play has gone through the Spaniard in that central playmaker role. I actually thought he'd started to look weary - he'd hardly missed a game up until the Fulham match last week - but he was Chelsea's best player against Wigan and clearly did well against Spurs in that second half. He'll need to be the supply-line proper for a Torres / Drogba this evening if Chelsea are to inflict any kind of damage.
Dom, do you think that Chelsea are the team in the best placed position to beat this Barcelona over 2 legs, with their power and 'long ball' counter attacking threat? I think Drogba has to play, and whats more, play brilliantly if we are to stand a chance. i.e Napoli, Valencia, Tottenham.
I think Torres, although improving, has been a liability to Chelsea this year and along with Bosingwa and Meireles has continued to undermine other's good work, with supporters' blind faith giving him too much game time. Do you agree? Finally, I think it's vital Chelsea keep a clean sheet tonight, so that we have the constant threat of an away goal at the Nou Camp. Can you see Chelsea winning without a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge?
Completely agree on the latter point. A clean sheet tonight will be vital if Chelsea are to go to Camp Nou with a real chance (mind you, Milan didn't concede at home and were eventually overwhelmed over there, which puts that into proper perspective). On Torres, when he's properly involved and integral, I feel as if he has plenty to contribute still. On other occasions - most recently at Fulham - he was too peripheral to make any kind of mark, and he isn't the kind of player (like a Drogba) who goes searching for the ball or muscling his way among defenders to get into a game. He can appear a luxury. But Chelsea have to find a way to eke the best out of him (I know, I know... they've been trying for 15 months now) and play to his strengths. I just feel that, if Barcelona play their high-line, there could be space for him to exploit in this tie. It'll be up to him whether he uses that properly to his advantage.
Dominic, what's the minimum/ worst result (you know what I mean) that Chelsea must get in order to stand a chance in the Camp Nou?
Minimum worst result.....?!? Er. I don't think a 1-1 would be particularly good news for Chelsea going over there. Though it would clearly be preferable to 0-6. That's not very helpful, is it... but a score draw would create problems for Chelsea given how much of the ball they're likely to see in Spain.
Are the journos in Pep's press conferences really as sycophantic as it seems from their Twitter feeds?
This is going to sound vaguely catty, but the English journalists were allowed one question in Pep Guardiola's press conference yesterday (which produced the "it's fantasy" answer about the prospect of him swapping Camp Nou for Stamford Bridge). Some might argue that's a good thing, but there you go...
I saw a column where Jimmy Floyd Hasselbank said that the keys to stopping Barca were to stiffle Busquets and Messi and not worry so much about Xavi and Iniesta. Its an interesting concept especially the Busquets part. When Busquets does his job well the opposing team usually loses the ball quickly and Barca are able to keep the team under pressure. What do you see as the key to stopping Barcelona and how would you stop Busquets from doing what he does?
I guess that makes sense given Busquets is probably at the start of most of Barcelona's spells of possession. Close him down and cut short his time on the ball and you might have a chance of spoiling Barca's build-up play at source. Easier said than done, mind. Busquets is probably the most under-rated World Cup / European Championship / Champions League winner of all time. He, like all Guardiola's midfielders, is so comfortable on the ball it is vaguely terrifying. I guess Chelsea will be asking their midfielders to snap into challenges and press constantly, as Frank Lampard suggested last night: "There's no way you can be passive against them. When you give Xavi, Iniesta, I could go on and on, if you give them time they'll hurt you. We have to pressure them in all areas of the pitch." If he plays, he could potentially try and unsettle Busquets. Alternatively, they could use Mata in that role for the (presumably long) periods they don't have the ball. One would suspect the deeper lying midfielder, whether it's Mikel / Essien / Meireles, would be more preoccupied with the likes of Xavi or Fabregas drifting in-field, let alone Dani Alves tearing down the flank. Actually, I'm starting to terrify myself now and I'm not even a Chelsea fan. Best leave that...
Do you think the Di Matteo streak is just a case of Chelsea breathing easy after the stuffy Villas-Boas times, or is he actually onto something here?
Regardless of the result and whether Chelsea get to 4th in the Prem, do you think Roman would have the faith to make him full-time manager?
It's hard not to be impressed with the impact he has made since taking over - 12 matches, nine wins, two draws and a defeat. The parallels with Guus Hiddink from three years ago are uncanny: their records are identical so far, they both reached an FA Cup final, and they're both playing Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals. While he's clearly impressing the hierarchy, however, I still suspect their instinct is to go with a high-profile appointment from outside in the summer. That seems to be the "Chelsea way", after all (not that it's lent itself to any longevity so far). The fact that he's gone back to the old guard, and playing the way the team were used to in the past, is purely pragmatic. The problems which confronted Villas-Boas when he took over - primarily an aging squad in need of an overhaul - remain and will be the problems whoever takes up the reins in the summer faces. Nothing has changed. We know this group of players, when happy and content, are capable of producing results in bursts and they've merely done it again. But things have to change eventually.
I would like to see the following team
Ivan Cahill Terry Cole
Torres Mata Ramires
but is that too attacking? I guess only question is over Torres and whether Kalou would be better with his work ethic. Sturridge, Essien, Ferreira to provide cover in attack, mid, defence. Please no Malouda or Meireles or Bosingwa!
I would suspect it'll be something like Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Lampard / Meireles; Ramires, Mata, Kalou; Torres. There was a theory, mooted by one of my colleagues yesterday, that they could play Ferreira at right-back and Ivanovic instead of Cahill in the middle, but I suspect they'll go with Branislav on the right given what he offers going forward as well. Stupid spats with Shaun Maloney aside, he's been one of their best players this season and will be missed against Arsenal and QPR (even if he wasn't, particularly, against Spurs).
Can you please explain to me why the press are 'bigging' up Chelsea's chances so much. The domestic record in the last 10 games isn't exactly spectacular, and they got lucky to a certain extent in the Spurs game. ITV also called this the most 'fierce rivalry in European football'...Is it lol...?
You'd rather we completely wrote off the last remaining English team in European competition? I think what optimism there is out there (and there is plenty of realism as well... the papers have been full of tributes to Barcelona's wonderful style and approach) is born of the relatively tight contests these sides enjoyed between 2005 and 2009. Admittedly, that was some time ago and both teams have changed in the period since (Barca clearly for the better, and Chelsea largely for the older...), but even Guardiola suggested last night that he remembers the last meeting as one of the greatest tests of his managerial career to date.
Even so, his suggestion that he was "struggling to see how we'll hurt them, create chances and score" did seem a bit far fetched...
I think Real Madrid will win the European Cup.
I know Barca are slicker but Real have learned to win, and win ugly, when required.
And........and C.Ronaldo is Messi's equal as a player.
What you think to that, my friend?
Jose Mourinho against either Barcelona or Chelsea in the final has a nice ring to it. But he has to get past Bayern Munich first...
Who do you think would win in a fight between John Terry and Carlos Puyol? What about if Terry had a stick with a nail in it and Puyol had a a fistful of sand and a net?
Go with Branislav every time...