La Liga brain Vs Premier League brawn

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"Our way of playing is very peculiar: passing and passing is our essence."

Barcelona want to win every game playing beautifully, to triumph with football alone. But, under the stewardship of Pep Guardiola - who was speaking to the media ahead of tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg clash against Chelsea at Camp Nou - the Catalan club's devotion to those aesthetically pleasing qualities, is at risk of being overcome.

"Our principle is always the same, and that is how we will continue to play while I am manager," continued the 41-year-old. "It started in my first game for the club, in Scotland, and it continued until our last game against Real Madrid.

"We have won respect for playing this way, but the past does not matter. We need to be more demanding all the time."

Roberto Di Matteo's side arrive in Spain with a slender advantage, ascertained from last week's dogged 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge. The Blues came in for plenty of criticism, for what was perceived as negative, 'anti-football' tactics. However, they were simply playing to their strengths, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Whilst high-minded principles are to be admired, the fact that Barcelona murder teams that try to match them technically, without the necessary equipment, is a lesson well-learned from a Chelsea perspective.

"We have to attempt to score, because it is difficult to play for a goalless draw in Nou Camp," admitted Di Matteo in yesterday's pre-match press conference.

"We will concentrate on the qualities within this team, look at the strengths of our players and the weakness of the opposition. We need to get the best out of ourselves."

Guardiola was seemingly in agreement: "If we do not beat Chelsea it is because they are a strong, strong team and this is their competition. And if they beat us, congratulations. [But] we are ready to fight against them, to reach the final."

The existence of a team such as Chelsea; experienced, well-schooled, quick, and physically imposing, is exactly what makes the neutral football fan appreciate Barcelona's mastery of the modern game even more. And, when the two sides lock horns tonight - as beauty meets the beast - we will see the coming together of two of the most contrasting styles of play.

It's fair to say that their style is little more tiresome than good football, played ineffectively. So Chelsea must look to frustrate the free-flowing Barcelona with a gameplan that best suits them.

Despite the negative feeling towards their 'tactics' in the first leg, don't expect Di Matteo to stray too far from those same principles tonight.

Ronald Koeman, who scored the goal that won Barcelona the European Cup against Sampdoria in 1992, headed the chorus of disapproval.

"As a coach, I could never let my team play like Chelsea did against Barcelona," he said. "I watched Chelsea defend for 90 minutes and I was appalled they did not try to make something more of the game. I have no admiration for their approach. Let's hope football will be the winner this week and the team with the best approach goes to the final."

Barcelona will know what to expect tonight, as Gerard Pique - the former Manchester United defender - confirmed when describing Chelsea in the build-up to tonight's encounter.

"Really strong, really competitive. They know how to play these games and are very experienced. Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, players like this have a lot of games in their legs. They know exactly what they are doing."

For the sake of the game and for football in general, I hope Barcelona's approach will emerge victorious from the Nou Camp. Brains should beat brawn every time, it is the intelligible quality that must prevail.

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