Chelsea, Bayern Munich Champions League final should still excite fans.
Six to watch
Chelsea travel to forbidding Camp Nou Tuesday with a real chance of catching a slumping Barcelona at exactly the right time. Carrying a 1-0 lead after their heroic defensive performance at Stamford Bridge, the Blues will be looking to repeat the feat and punch their ticket for the Munich final. Here’s six key people you must watch Tuesday.
Didier Drogba, F, Chelsea
The Ivorian striker was justly criticized for his flopping and diving last week, but he is also rightly celebrated for scoring a fantastic winner. He was deployed as the lone man at the Bridge and we’re likely to see him playing the same role Tuesday. Athletic, powerful and strong in the air, Barcelona don’t have an answer for him. If he stays on his feet, he can be the difference.
John Obi Mikel, MF, Chelsea
Reborn under Roberto Di Matteo, Obi Mikel is charged with compressing the space between two very taut lines that will look to absorb Barcelona’s pressure. In the first match he was left rooted too often but did do a solid job getting up on Xavi and Andres Iniesta. He has to have a huge game Tuesday — his defensive performance will be vital if Chelsea are to prosper.
John Terry, D, Chelsea
The old hand got the job done and well Wednesday, settling down a nervous Gary Cahill, getting his positions and angles right and keeping one of soccer’s most ferocious attacks at bay. Fiercely proud, he has the charisma to carry this team on his shoulders. The fact is, this may be his last and best chance to get to the dream Champions League final.
Lionel Messi, F, Barcelona
Messi has been proven mortal these past few weeks: he looks tired and unable to summon up the magic his team so badly needs. But even a merely “good” Messi is ten times better than most of your other players. He’s still the best in the game but against the Blues he has to get further forward and stop being pressed deeper into midfield. He also has to stop trying to do it all himself – he can be dazzling, but he needs to get Alexis Sanchez or Pedro into the game.
Xavi, MF, Barcelona
Xavi’s battling a long-standing muscular problem, and the result is that Barcelona’s midfield engine looks a bit faded right now. He’s playing through the pain, but his passes have lacked the sharpness we normally associate with his genius. He’s going to have to have get Barcelona playing at a clip — of late, he’s looked unable to go through the gears, and speed is the key to their offense.
Pep Guardiola, Manager, Barcelona
The manager has enjoyed a charmed tenure, but he hasn’t found an answer yet for the tactics both Levante and Chelsea threw at him. Losing to Real Madrid might have been the last straw, and one wonders if he can get his charges over that serious psychological blow and rebound in what is now a make-or-break game for his team’s season. He’s shown deftness and excellent man-management in the past, but he has a tired team, and that’s something no manager has an answer for.