CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SPECIAL
you, you have to try to show him outside – that is an unnatural movement for him. But it’s very, very hard to stop him. As we found out!”
...BUT DON’T PUT TWO MEN ON HIM Javi Chica, Espanyol defender (now at Betis) “Because Messi plays as part of the team, you can’t afford to stick two men on him. He is happy to draw those two in and then play to others. You can take that risk with other players at other clubs but not here. It is not about putting men on him so much as preventing him from having space to go into or play to. One way of doing that is to try to make sure that he only receives the ball with his back to goal and is unable to turn; if he turns and faces you, he is very dangerous.”
DEFEND DEEP, THEN STRIKE Victor Munoz, former Barcelona midfielder “In the semi-final of the 2010 Champions League, Inter invited Barcelona forward, and even the defenders came up. Barça often play like this, but if the pressing doesn’t get the ball you often see Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol sprinting back to stop danger. They have the pace but it can be scary.”
Berdyev: trigger happy coach
BE AT YOUR BEST Manolo Jimenez, former Sevilla coach who masterminded a 2-1 first leg win at the Nou Camp in the Copa del Rey in January 2010 “Against Barcelona, every player has to play at the top of the ‘seven virtues of football’: talent,
“Xavi and Iniesta never drop back so I told the midfield to shoot on sight”
intensity, patience, commitment, organisation, balance and solidity.” Simple as that.
SHOOT ONSIGHT Kurban Berdyev, coach of Rubin Kazan, the last team to beat Barcelona at home in the Champions League (2-1 in October 2009) “I studied all their games and I noticed that Xavi and Iniesta almost never drop back to their own penalty box. This creates free space for shots from middle range. Our midfielders were told to shoot on sight. Barça’s full-backs also tend to play wide and leave space in the centre. We were ready to organise our counter-attack through that area.”
Below Sticking two men on this fella isn’t the answer
SURPRISE THEM! Martin Lasarte, whose Real Sociedad side won 2-1 in April to keep his team up and slow down Barcelona’s title charge “They are constructed to dominate, so the first thing you must do to cause a surprise is be prepared to take advantage of anything they give you. You have to perform with intensity, order, passion, savvy and above all with attacking aggression. If you let them have the ball and dominate the game in midfield then that crucial area of the pitch will determine the result and they will win.”
ASK FOR SOME HELP FROM ‘HIM UPSTAIRS’ Sonia Gelma, Barcelona correspondent for Catalan radio station, RAC1 “I have one bit of advice: pray. To beat them, Barça need to have a terrible day and the other team need all the luck and to have their best day ever. That happened for Hercules last season at Camp Nou…”
DEFEND THROUGH THE MIDDLE AND ATTACK OUT WIDE Estaban Vigo Benitez, coach of Hercules, who inflicted a first league defeat on Barcelona at the Nou Camp for 16 months in their opening home game of last season “They usually try and attack you through the centre, so the only way you can stop them is to deny them space there, which means bringing your lines very close together, pushing the defence out from the penalty area and making sure your midfield gets back into position very quickly. You need to have huge levels of concentration for 90 minutes if that is to work, and it’s fundamental that you don’t concede in the opening 20 minutes.
Also, because their full-backs attack so much and push so high up the pitch, your best chance of finding space is behind them. To do so, play long balls into the gap left by them. If you can get the ball into those spaces and use quick players to take advantage of those gaps, you have a chance.”
Yaya Toure: “Oh no, they’re going to banish me to Manchester for this”
62 October 2011 FourFourTwo.com
GO TOE TO TOE WITH THEM ( YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO )
Xavi“Youwantme to tell you how to beat us? Try and do it by playing football. Don’t try and do what some teams do and kick us. That’s anti-football. That’s sad.” Nice try, shorty. We’re not falling for that one.