Chelsea Has Almost No Chance At Upsetting Mighty Barcelona – By Steven Cohen

On Feb. 11, 1990, I sat at home with a friend as we readied ourselves to take in what was supposed to be a very routine boxing bout between Buster Douglas and Mike Tyson. The consensus was that Mike Tyson would pummel Buster Douglas and the fight would be over in a round or two.

I even recall remarking that there was no chance that this fight was going to end in anything other than a dominant Tyson victory, I went on and on articulating the degrees and non-chances that Douglas had of beating Tyson that night in Tokyo. Forty-five minutes later I sat stunned at my TV as Buster Douglas knocked out the world’s undisputed heavyweight champion.

I find that I am having a Buster Douglas/Mike Tyson moment in preparation for the upcoming Champions League semifinal match-up between Chelsea and Barcelona. I simply cannot see any way Chelsea has any chance against the reigning European champion.

With the exception of the goalkeeping position I do not see a match-up across the park that favors Chelsea. I do not see how Chelsea, with some of the age in its veterans, is going to be able to get enough of the ball to challenge Barcelona anywhere. As well as Roberto Di Matteo is doing, he cannot hold a candle in any form, other than possibly fashion, compared to Pep Guardiola.

A couple of things are very obvious as we look ahead to what I believe will be a decidedly uncompetitive semifinal: Chelsea is a shadow of the side that it was in 2009; Barcelona has become one of the greatest teams of all time since 2009. And it is the 2009 series between these clubs that brings up the most intriguing sentiments.

The argument goes, if you listen to the English media, that Chelsea has the experience at the semifinal level and it has unfinished business versus Barcelona. While I do not doubt the latter point, the first point is utterly ridiculous.

If Chelsea does indeed have the experience factor at the semifinal stage, what exactly does Barcelona have? In fact, one way to look at it is that Chelsea has been to semifinals of the Champions League five times in the last eight years, yet has been to the final just once.

Conversely, Barcelona is in its fifth straight semifinal and has won the trophy two of the last three years and three of the last six years. Additionally, a good chunk of the squad is also European and world champions at the national level with Spain.

Additional reasoning being given for why Chelsea is perfectly capable of turning Barcelona over is that while at Atletico Madrid, Fernando Torres routinely put Barcelona to the sword. I think it is once again safe to say that that was a different Barcelona and this is most definitely not the same Fernando Torres.

As for unfinished business from the debacle of the refereeing performance by Tom Henning-Ovrebo: There is no question that Chelsea was denied four legitimate penalty claims in the second leg of the 2009 encounter, before Andres Iniesta inflicted that killer blow in injury time to send Chelsea out and Barcelona to the final.

The unfinished business, us-against-the-world mentality can only take teams so far and nothing Barcelona will have seen from this current Chelsea team against Benfica, Wigan, and Fulham should have them quaking in their boots.

The truth is that even under Di Matteo, Chelsea has got results against teams like Aston Villa, Wigan, Birmingham City and Leicester City. It has won where it should be winning and has still been largely unimpressive. In the Champions League quarterfinal last week versus Benfica it took a penalty and a Benfica red card before halftime to get it done. Benfica still played the Blues off the park, their park. What on earth will Barcelona do?

The manner in which both Stamford Bridge and the Nou Camp are delivered to us on TV gives us the impression that the Nou Camp is a far bigger playing surface and it has been suggested that Chelsea will be more comfortable on a smaller pitch and Barcelona will not be able to stretch out as much. This is not true. In fact, it is simply an illusion of the camera; the Nou Camp is a mere two yards longer and one yard wider, hardly a significant edge.

Even with Puyol at left back, the ability to get the ball remains a substantial issue for the West Londoners. More of an issue is what a much slower Chelsea back line does with Messi, Sanchez, Fabregas et al, not to mention the unbridled brilliance of Xavi and Iniesta.

Personally I cannot see it in any way, shape, form or fashion. But, then again, that is why the play the games.

Manchester City slips up for a variety of reasons

I personally like Roberto Mancini, I think his candor in front of the camera is charming and beyond refreshing. There seems to be no question he will not answer, nor any player who is beyond his scorn when required. But if players win titles and managers lose them, then I fear for Roberto.

How Manchester City has blown this title is unbelievable.

Firstly though lets give a huge round of applause to United and Ferguson. Given half a chance they will stomp on you. Weak team? Lesser league?  All the money in the world against them? They don’t care. Give them half a yard and they will take you out. They are true and genuine champions and they are the embodiment of experience down the stretch.

But it also should be said that City has blown this title. Here are four reasons why in my opinion:

Up until January, David Silva would have won any player of the year award. But he has tired and waned. Perhaps it was the lack of the winter break, perhaps it was the physicality of the Premier League. The guy who was supposed to spell him, Samir Nasri has not lived up to expectations despite his big money move from Arsenal.

Carlos Tevez. There were no buyers in January and City had to take him back despite Mancini’s claims that he would never play for the Sky Blues again. His apology was too little and too late but Mancini needed him and he proved vital in the win against Chelsea, but ultimately the decision to bring him back divided the dressing room.

The defense. It was simply not good enough. Down the stretch City has conceded too many goals. Important goals. Three versus Sunderland at home is simply not good enough. Since March 3, City has shipped seven goals to United’s one. On March 3, City was two points clear of United. Today it is eight points behind. Enough said.

And lastly, the one, the only: Mario Balotelli.

Look, it is okay to have a wild child. It is okay to have a player who is on the edge as long as he does not affect the team dynamic. That is not the case with Balotelli.

Where United has Scholes at 37 banging in screamers this weekend; City has Balotelli setting off fireworks in his bathroom, going to Milan without permission mid-week, crashing cars, and getting sent off. This is all almost okay if you lead the league by 10 points.

But Mancini’s error was buying him, putting up with his antics, watching him get sent off three times in one season, and all the while giving him special treatment. The affect this had on the rest of the dressing room was immeasurable.

Mancini now says he does not trust him after Mourinho, possibly the greatest man manger of all time, said he was a lost cause.

For these reasons City has blown the title. I hope the owners in Abu Dhabi will give Mancini another chance but I would not blame them if they did not.

Spain comes out on top in Europe this season

It’s amazing to look at the Premier League and La Liga and see that at this late stage of the season La Liga is more competitive. That is right! Eight points between United and City; only four points between Real Madrid and Barcelona, with a Clasico to come in 12 days.

In fact at this stage of the season, both La Liga and Serie A are more competitive than the Premier League at the top of the divisions.

My point is only that La Liga is as competitive as the Premier League, even at the top. In the last 20 years there have been five different champions in Spain but only four in England.

This season the 11th placed team in La Liga outclassed and outplayed over two legs the team that will win its 20th title this season.

The dominance of Spanish football on the only truly global game is greater than I have ever seen.
This season will see a probable all-Spanish Champions League final and a possible all-Spanish Europa League final. Five of the last eight teams in Europe’s semifinals are Spanish, and this does not even factor in the issue of the Spanish national team’s credentials.

The big three all go through their cycles of dominance but this cycle we are seeing by Spanish football is beyond anything I have ever seen.

Last thing this week: I hope Clint Dempsey stays at Fulham.

He has scored 10 in his last 12 games and is the third leading scorer in the Premier League in 2012. I know there will be the urge to find a Champions League team and move up. But for the growth and stature of the American game I hope he stays at Fulham.

It is better for Clint to be the superstar at Fulham than a dud and a bench warmer somewhere else. Clint, before you act please think of these two words: Andy Carroll.

Until then…

*Used with permission by the kind courtesy of Goal.com

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