Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is demanding his side “stay in every moment of the game” as it attempts to score at the Camp Nou against Barcelona. Chelsea opens the leg with a 1-1 score line, and knows it needs a 1-0, 2-1, 2-2, or better.
“Barcelona try to dominate the game, have a lot of possession and try to get players between the lines and go straight towards the goal. We must pay great attention, be compact and suffer. Without the ball, you suffer. You have to defend well. When you have the ball, I repeat, we must know very well which is the way to go, to try to score and create chances, in the same way we did at Stamford Bridge.”
“You can draw conclusions from every game. In 2012, we started out really well, we went ahead on the scoreboard, we went for it in the second leg, we missed a penalty kick — that’s all part of football. It was a sad game, because we could have gone through to the final. We played great in those games, and it seems inconceivable that we didn’t go through, but that’s the way football is.”
As for the other tie, Bayern Munich visits Besiktas for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff.
Besiktas is a fine team, but posting 5-0 or better over Bayern Munich in Turkey is a bit too far-fetched to consider more than a paragraph on this second leg. Expect Besiktas to show well, but keeping Bayern off the board is quite a challenge. Bayern boss Jupp Heycknes may rest a fella or two:
“We have 20 absolutely top players, and I trust all of them. There’s no preferred line-up. It varies. But of course I won’t act against my conviction that we need a good balance between defence and attack in the team. That’ll be the case tomorrow too.”
MADRID (AP) In a day marked by demonstrations over Catalonia’s disputed independence vote, Barcelona won its seventh game in a row and Real Madrid earned its first victory at home in the Spanish league on Sunday.
Barcelona defeated Las Palmas 3-0 to stay perfect with two goals by Lionel Messi and one by Sergio Busquets in a game played in an empty Camp Nou Stadium to protest the Spanish government’s attempt to halt Catalonia’s referendum.
Real Madrid beat Catalan club Espanyol 2-0 with a pair of goals by Isco in a match in which Madrid fans displayed cards with the Spanish flag colors.
The cards were raised in the 12th minute in a reference to the supporters being the club’s 12th player.
Some of the few Espanyol fans at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium held up the colors of the Catalan flag, although coach Quique Sanchez Flores did not want to get involved.
“I’m not going to mix sports and politics,” he said. “I’m not going to be part of this spectacle.”
Las Palmas added a Spanish flag to the shirts that the players wore against Barcelona to show its support for a unified Spain.
By day’s end, Catalonia’s health services said 844 people had been treated in hospitals for injuries, including two in serious condition, as Spanish authorities tried to stop the independence vote that the central government said was unconstitutional. Thirty-three police were also injured.
Barcelona, which openly backed the referendum, wanted to postpone the game but its request was denied by the Spanish league. It decided to play to avoid losing points, but kept the stadium empty “to show the entire world that we were not pleased with what happened (in Catalonia),” club president Josep Bartomeu said.
Barcelona maintained a five-point lead over second-place Sevilla, which on Saturday defeated Malaga 2-0 at home.
Isco scored from close range after a neat through pass by Cristiano Ronaldo in the 30th minute and added to the lead in the 71st with a shot from inside the area to give Madrid its first home league win this season, beating Espanyol 2-0.
Madrid had drawn twice and lost once at the Bernabeu, although it had won its Champions League game at the stadium against APOEL. It had also beaten Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup final.
“The key for the team was to be patient,” Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said.
Right back Dani Carvajal was left out of the squad after the team said he had a viral infection related to his heart, but Zidane said it was not serious.
Sergio Busquets opened the scoring at Camp Nou with a header early in the second half, and Lionel Messi added his goals seven minutes apart toward the end of the game, as Barcelona beat Las Palmas 3-0.
Messi’s first goal deserved a bigger audience, with the Argentine dribbling his way past the goalkeeper before finding the open net in the 70th minute. His second was an easy shot from close range after a pass by Luis Suarez.
Messi reached 14 goals in 11 matches this season. He is the league’s scoring leader with 11 goals in seven matches.
Barcelona’s Enrique, Busquets disagree on reasons for big loss
Instead the Chilean boss caused plenty of issues for his own back four, with neither David Silva or Samir Nasri comfortable playing out wide as true wingers and Barcelona’s full backs pushing on to create overloaded situations time and time again.
Barcelona’s midfield dominated possession in the first half, with Fernando and James Milner reminiscent of statues as the entire City team gave Barca too much respect. After 31 minutes City were 2-0 down thanks to Luis Suarez’s predatory finishes and the experiment to start Dzeko and Aguero up top together — which although it worked wonderfully against Newcastle United last weekend, it didn’t have the same impact on Tuesday — looked foolish in the Citizens’ biggest game of the season so far. Pellegrini needed to succeed in the Champions League in his second-season at the Etihad and instead of taking responsibility for his decision to alter the system, he put the blame solely on his players when speaking to the press afterwards.
Perhaps he was right to. Fernando gave the ball away time and time again, Nasri and Silva were isolated and the Citizens badly missed Yaya Toure (suspended) and his powerful drivings runs from midfield to help mesh things together. So, why did Pellegrini deploy a 4-4-2 formation and play in an unfamiliar way for the visit of Barcelona to the Etihad? Speaking to the media afterwards, Pellegrini had no answer.
“We didn’t play in the first play, which is why it was impossible to try to win,” Pellegrini said. “More so when you give up an easy goal and it was more easy for Barca to retain and keep the ball for longer. I think that if we played in the first half the way we played in the second half, the score would have been different… In the second half we did what we talked about before the game. We did well and it is not easy to play against Barcelona. We conceded two goals and we scored one and had two or three clear chances more.”
On the contrary, Luis Enrique was extremely happy with his sides performance (despite Lionel Messi missing a last minute penalty kick which would have sealed a 3-1 win) and the Spaniard definitely had the upper-hand on Pellegrini.
By keeping the three dangermen of Neymar, Luis Suarez and Messi high, Enrique allowed City to have the ball in midfield but every time his side broke they tore City apart in the first half. In one instance Barca kept three attackers forward when City had a corner, as the Catalan club stretched the Citizens and punished them ruthlessly.
Dominating midfield with Sergio Busquets having all the time in the world to pick off forward passes, then Ivan Rakitic and Andre Iniesta able to push high on Milner and Fernando, Barca bossed proceedings in the first half. Enrique’s assistant Juan Carlos Unzue was stood on the edge of the technical area for most of the match, dressed in a smart pair of sneakers and jeans, his demeanor certainly didn’t match his casual look. At every opportunity he urged the back four to step up whenever the ball was in City’s half and Unzue was in constant dialogue with center backs Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano who blocked plenty of efforts as the Catalans defended resolutely.
Enrique, a former midfield enforcer during his playing days for the Catalan club, was delighted with the way his midfield controlled City.
“We were superior in the middle of the park and created situations of danger,” Enrique said. “They couldn’t find [David] Silva between the lines. Second half, after the break we knew they would come at us. They have quality, they pressed us in the second half.”
Enrique was right, City improved drastically after the break but only because they had to and Barca sat back to try and preserve their 2-0 lead. After Dzeko’s poor header from six-yards out where he should have scored, Aguero’s fine finish gave City hope of clawing things back, as they looked buoyed by the arrival of Fernandinho on 62 minutes with Milner heading out to his favored wide-right position in place of the disappointing Nasri. But just 10 minutes later Gael Clichy was stupidly sent off for a second yellow card and Barcelona dominated the final 15 minutes with the one-man advantage. It was all too similar to City’s games against Barcelona last season as they have now had three red cards in three games against the Spanish giants and have given away two PKs. Pellegrini called Pablo Zabaleta’s last minute challenge on Messi to give away a penalty kick “unnecessary” and called for his side to “control their emotions better” in the box.
Pressed again on why he chose to deploy a 4-4-2 system, as City started slowly and never fully recovered, Pellegrini again brushed it off.
“It was the way we must play against Barcelona. Barcelona will always dominate some part of the game in the midfield,” Pellegrini said. “With the same players in the second half and losing 2-0, it is more difficult to play because Barcelona played with more quiet. It was the way we must play from the first whistle…. We must play the way we normally do and the way we played in the second half. If we do then I think that we can have chances.”
City’s goalkeeper Hart, who saved the penalty kick at the death from Messi which could well prove pivotal, believes his side are still in this tie. Just.
“We pressed until the first goal and panicked a bit. We regrouped second half, put a lot of pressure on and were good for our goal and maybe good for a result tonight,” Hart said. “The occasion did not get to us, sometimes things go against you. It is 2-1 and we go there with belief.”
City now need at least a 2-0 win at the Nou Camp on Mar. 18 to go through to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in club history. It’s a big ask, but it can be done if they play the same way they did in the second half and cut out the silly errors.
It can also be achieved if Pellegrini gets his tactics correct from the beginning, with a 4-3-3 system involving Toure a must. City played into Barcelona’s hands for over half of the first leg and are lucky to still be in with a chance, albeit a rather slim one, of advancing. If City’s defeat to Barcelona on Tuesday proved anything, it is that they are failing to progress under Pellegrini in Europe as they head into another second leg at the Nou Camp starring Champions League elimination in the face.