1. Start Giroud
Seems simplistic enough, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Conte had other ideas. Other ideas which include starting an out of form Morata. It’s not a terrible one considering he’s quicker and has a slick understanding with Hazard. But his form has tailed off so badly that starting him in a crucial tie like this would be counter-productive. This is not a game to furnish the Spaniard with game time after time out with injury.
Playing Hazard as a false nine robs him of one of his essential gifts, which is ghosting in behind. Hazard is a player who needs players around him, playing one-twos and darting into the box for a chance to strike home. He’ll be up against Pique and Vermalean who are not pushovers. He’d need a center-forward distraction to ply his trade best how he knows how.
2. Bloody don’t start Bakayoko
There are bad players and there are players who you think are impostors. Bakayoko is one of the latter. The Frenchman was purchased with the aim of replacing a slowing Matic. Instead the multi-coloured haired ex-Monaco man has stunk Stamford Bridge so bad many are yearning for the return of the maligned John Obi Mikel. He’s been so underwhelming many are perplexed why he persists with the walking disaster.
There are great ideas, there are good ideas and there are sensible ideas. Benching the Frenchman falls in the latter category. He’s a liability Chelsea should do without.
3. The 3-4-3 not the 3-5-2 is the better utilized formation
When As Roma drew 3-3 with Chelsea in the group stages, Antonio Conte lamented about the 3-5-2 not giving them enough control despite the extra man in midfield. And there’s the myth exposed about numbers in midfield; they don’t generally don’t translate to dominance in the middle of the pitch. In the the 3-4-3 setup, Chelsea play with an extra defender and one or two defensive midfielders, so why withdraw an attacker for another midfielder? It makes very little sense.
In that formation, a lot is demanded of Eden Hazard to create, something he can do but will wear him out as the game progresses. The width of the team is sure to be compromised as the Wingbacks would be tasked with repelling the Barcelona attack. This leaves one of Giroud or Morata and Hazard to provide attacking impetus which is a herculean task given Barcelona’s instinct for control.
4. Attack Barcelona
This Barcelona team are a different incarnation to the one Chelsea overcame on route the Champions League glory in 2012. This team isn’t the passing blizzards they once were under Pep Guardiola but they are an effective team and that in itself is a cause for worry. They are a lot more sensible defensively, and get the job done. This will be daunting for any team in Europe; overcoming Barcelona across two legs but nothings won in cowardice.
A lesson should be learned from Spurs determined draw with Juventus. Tottenham were 2-0 down before a game plan was implemented but They weren’t leaving Italy with a negative result and it showed in their display. Totally annulling the Juventus attack with patient possession, they went for the impenetrable backline and succeeded.
Chelsea should be brave, after all, Barca are the odds-on favourites.
5. Ensure discipline on the pitch
Don’t give them an excuse, Barcelona players especially Suarez are master craftsmen in the art of diving. It is a daunting task with 11 men, near impossible with 10. Tackle when you need to, keep your head calm. Barca don’t just play your body, they attack your mind. How you react to their antics would help in determining how the game would pan out.