Lionel Messi finally ended his goal drought against Chelsea in the first and second legs of Barcelona’s last-16 tie with the Blues. After a 1-1 draw in the first-leg, Antonio Conte’s side travelled to the Camp Nou in hope of a historic night but they were beaten 3-0 and Barca’s pint-sized magician was a class above the rest.
Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown has since questioned Conte’s lack of sufficient tactics to limit Messi’s threat. He said that N’Golo Kante’s impact should’ve been focused on man-marking the Argentine superstar and that probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea as every time Messi got the ball, he looked destined to score as he did on two occasions.
There aren’t many players in world football that have the relentless work rate of Kante and he would’ve certainly had the capability of putting the pressure on Barcelona’s main man. Keown felt the same way: “I wonder if someone should try to man-mark Messi, a player with really quick movement who can dart across the pitch.
“N’Golo Kante could have done that job for Chelsea. He did it to a certain extent in the first leg at Stamford Bridge.”
Martin Keown isn’t the first person to highlight Chelsea’s poor tactics in big games this season. Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois are two of many others, which is a worrying sign for their Italian manager.
It looks as though this campaign will be Conte’s last in West London but the current sticking point is whether he will leave himself or whether Roman Abramovich will make the decision to relieve him of his duties. The 48-year-old is second-favourite with oddsmakers to be the next Premier League manager to leave their post, and his 9/1 odds may prove tempting to those punters looking to use their free bets before the end of the season.
Regardless of his future, the former Juventus boss must propel his Blues side into the top four as a fifth-placed finish definitely isn’t good enough for a big club like Chelsea. Their exit from the Champions League means they can now focus on Premier League life.