Chelsea must go old-school to beat Spurs

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Chelsea need to turn back time and use an old fashioned game plan if they want to reach another FA Cup final.

Roberto di Matteo has done a good job in solidifying the Blues back line since he took over after Andre Villas-Boas was dismissed, but he will need to go one-step further if the next two weeks are to have any success.

The Stamford Bridge side will know what to expect when Harry Redknapp sends out his Spurs team at Wembley on Sunday evening, due to their goalless meeting in west London recently.

Chelsea were somewhat fortunate to come out of that with a point as Tottenham put them under great pressure in the last half an hour, mainly due to their more incisive passing and speed in attack.

The Blues lacked any great mobility in midfield, other than Ramires, and this was exploited well when Gareth Bale drifted in from the touchline in the second half and Luka Modric pushed higher up the pitch.

As the home defence tired, their north London visitors looked more and more dangerous when counter-attacking.

Chelsea needed a goal, as a draw did not do much for their Champions League qualification hopes, but it was alarming how easily they were being cut open at the back when they gave the ball away in attack.

Di Matteo will need to take the same approach as he did in Portugal where a fine defensive display was topped off with a winning goal in the break.

This may not be quite so effective against a Spurs side who are probably a step up to the opposition from Lisbon and the Blues caretaker (or interim, whatever you like, they mean the same) manager must set his team up in a defensive stance.

Chelsea are not incapable of playing fast possession football but their current circumstances dictate that they must try to win without burning themselves out and this means solid defence complimented with quick, direct phases of attack.

There is a formidable opponent waiting for them at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday and there is no question that tiredness could seriously affect them.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that Barcelona have the ability to put the entire tie to bed if Chelsea are not on top of their game, which means the Spurs game must be done inside 90 minutes and cannot be a bruising encounter.

Di Matteo must take inspiration from his homeland and the Catenaccio of Helenio Herrera’s great Inter Milan side in the 1960s.

They must prioritise protecting their back four and break when they can, using as few passes as possible to get up the pitch.

This does not necessarily mean they should resort to long balls, but the transition from back to front must be quick and accurate.

Playing with two up front, or a single midfielder high up the pitch, could help the ball to stick better while team-mates get up the pitch in support.

It is hardly football that will please the eye but there should be no shame in adjusting tactics drastically when they have in such a difficult schedule over the next two weeks.

It won’t be one for the purists, but Chelsea are at a point where the hopes for this season and next are balancing on a knife edge.

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Tottenham Hotspur
Luka Modric
Gareth Bale
FA Cup

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