Champions League Preview: Chelsea v Barcelona

Sport-locker.net preview the Champions League semi-final first leg between Chelsea and Barcelona…

CAN CHELSEA OVERPOWER THE ‘TIKI-TAKA’ MAGICIANS? 

Tonight’s Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona promises to be a fascinating clash and although many pundits have written off Chelsea’s chances, their direct approach and recent good form could help them outmuscle the favourites.

Xavi’s statistics are a testament to the ‘tiki-taka’ style of football that Barcelona have made famous. Castrol EDGE Performance data shows that in the 535 minutes he has played in the 2011/12 Champions League, he has made 789 passes with a sensational completion rate of 94%. Chelsea’s Frank Lampard cannot match Xavi’s passing statistics but his record of three goals, with a chance conversion rate of 21%, eclipses that of the Spaniard and is representative of the more direct threat from midfield that he poses.

MATA AND SANCHEZ REPRESENT DIFFERENT STYLES 

Juan Mata and Alexis Sanchez have impressed in their first seasons with their respective new clubs, but it is Mata that has already become an integral part of his team in the Champions League. He has played 697 minutes to Sanchez’s 201 and Castrol EDGE Performance data shows he touches the ball 52 times per game, which is more than his teammates Didier Drogba (37) and Frank Lampard (48) and over twenty times more than Sanchez (30).

However, the players’ statistics provide an insight into the different playing styles of the teams. While Mata has aimed 47 crosses at his powerful forward line and attempted 19 dribbles, Sanchez has not provided a single cross, unsurprising given Barcelona’s lack of a target man and passing philosophy.

Sanchez does provide a more direct goal threat than Mata with a superior conversion rate of 29%, with his two goals coming at a rate of one every 100 minutes.

MESSI THE MASTER BUT DROGBA A REAL THREAT 

Castrol EDGE Performance data underlines Lionel Messi’s excellence as both a goal scorer, with 14 goals at a rate of one every 58 minutes, and as a playmaker, with four assists, 27 chances created and an 88% pass completion rate to his name. His 72 dribbles are almost five times more than Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, who has a mere 15 to his name. 

Nevertheless, despite playing less than half the minutes that Messi has in the Champions League, Drogba matches Messi for chance conversion (27%), creating two goals and a respectable ten chances for his teammates. Barcelona will need to be wary of the less celebrated but often devastatingly direct approach of Drogba and his Chelsea teammates.

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