CHELSEA cannot afford to merely try to stop Barcelona and Lionel Messi tonight; they have to take the game to them and do so from the very first moment.
Attempting to nullify Barca is asking for trouble. The visitors will end up having the ball for 85 minutes, and that will inevitably bring goals.
The Blues must try to hit them early – don’t wait 10 minutes and then up the tempo, by which time the Catalans will have settled any of their early nerves.
The European champions are beatable, as results this season in Spain have shown, but Chelsea will need the kind of night when they take an early chance and get their noses in front.
They did it against Benfica and Napoli at Stamford Bridge in previous rounds of this competition and they can do it again – with top performances from their senior players.
Roberto di Matteo faces a dilemma up front between Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres, both of whom are in decent form and pose threats for different reasons.
Torres has a good record against Barcelona and the added motivation of playing against a team from his homeland, while Drogba boasts experience of countless big European nights.
I hope Di Matteo plumps for Drogba. The Ivorian’s explosive power plays to Chelsea’s strengths and the high-tempo game I think they should adopt.
In central midfield, I’d rather see Frank Lampard than Raul Meireles alongside John Obi Mikel in Di Matteo’s 4-2-3-1 system.
This is a big game and Lampard is a big-game player. Scrappy moments happen even in these top-level matches and, when they do, he tends to pounce.
Lampard will have to rein in his attacking tendencies a touch, however, and help Mikel, who naturally sits deeper, combat the threat of Messi.
Chelsea’s best bet is to play a high defensive line, so that they press Barca further up the pitch and deny Messi as much space as they can to do damage.
John Terry’s ability to get his defenders to drop off at the right time will be key to this, however. He will have to manage that back four like never before.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played in two World Cups and a European Championship. He now works as a scout and media commentator.