Conte the ‘fox’: How he almost ran away with a plan


Many wrote Chalsea off last night when Barcelona came charging and this looked so in the early minutes when Barca enjoyed possession up to 79 per cent. Then, Antonio Conte’s plan began to unfold.

Below I how BBC saw it.

Chelsea and Conte knew they needed a performance of fierce tactical discipline and near perfection to establish a platform for progress from this Champions League last 16.

And they came so close to achieving it until that moment in the 75th minute that might yet prove decisive in this tie.

Conte’s decision to play with Eden Hazard as a “false nine” and have plenty of bodies in and around Barcelona’s brilliant creators worked superbly as Willian gave them the lead they fully deserved just after the hour.

Only ill luck and both posts had prevented the hosts from building an advantage earlier. And Chelsea’s organisation and willingness to contest every situation frustrated Barcelona, even the world-class pairing of Messi and Luis Suarez.

And in Willian, Chelsea had the game’s outstanding performer as he rattled both posts and ran Barcelona ragged with his pace and strong running.

Stamford Bridge was just beginning to contemplate taking a precious lead to the Nou Camp when Christensen, outstanding for Chelsea this season, misplaced a pass across his own area with catastrophic consequences.

Iniesta picked the perfect pass for Messi to complete the formalities with a sweeping left-foot finish.

Chelsea’s concentration may have been disturbed by penalty appeals a second earlier when Suarez tangled with Antonio Rudiger – but it was the sort of error that rarely goes unpunished by opposition of this quality.

Chelsea and the work of their manager – who said he had suffered sleepless nights working out a plan to combat Barcelona – deserves so much credit on a night when they put their recent struggles behind them and looked much more like last season’s Premier League champions.