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Monday 1 September 2014

Chelsea have gone back to long ball game, insists Fabregas

Published 18/04/2012 | 07:57

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Barcelona's Javier Mascherano and Cesc Fabregas smile during a team training session at Stamford Bridge prior to their Champions League semi-final first leg match against Chelsea. Photo: Reuters
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola heaped praise on Chelsea. Photo: Getty Images

Cesc Fabregas raised the stakes ahead of tonight's Champions League semi-final clash when he said that Chelsea had tried to change under Andre Villas-Boas, but had reverted to their old long-ball style since his dismissal.

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Barcelona's former Arsenal midfielder said more than once yesterday that his new club faced the Chelsea "we all know" in what will be the Londoners' sixth semi-final in nine years in the Champions League.

Speaking at Stamford Bridge, Fabregas (24) said that Chelsea had attempted to adopt a different approach under which they built the game up from the back earlier this season, but had abandoned it since.

Fabregas said: "What happened with Villas-Boas was they played more from the back, trying to keep possession and take the initiative.

They've gone back to the type of Chelsea that was more successful a few years ago with (Roberto) Di Matteo: playing on the counter, trying to hit the target man, sitting back and using that No 9 as a reference point."

Later he added that Chelsea were in the best form of their season, but maintained that the team had "not changed a lot".

"With Villas-Boas maybe they tried to change a bit, but they're now the same Chelsea as when I left (Arsenal last summer)," he said.

It's not yet clear whether Di Matteo will opt for Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres in attack, and he also has a choice to make in midfield between Frank Lampard, who played against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, and Raul Meireles.

The signs yesterday were that it would be Lampard who would play.

Lampard denied that Chelsea were as predictable as Fabregas might have suggested. He said: "We're mixing the powerful, organised, disciplined game with some very good attacking football. On our day, we can be a match for everyone.

"But we respect that Barcelona are not only the in-form team now, but the dominant team of the last few years. So we have to be at our best."

Chelsea have not lost a game to Barcelona in the Champions League since the 2-1 defeat in February 2006 at the Nou Camp. They have not lost any of the eight games they have played against Barcelona under the Roman Abramovich regime when they have managed to keep 11 players on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.

With the feeling now that they are weaker than at any time over the seven years they have faced Barcelona, manager Pep Guardiola warned that Chelsea still represent formidable opponents. (© Independent News Service)

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