The long shot against the wannabe champions. There is no doubt who the bookies favourite is in this match but let Charlie Anderson, In Bed With Maradona’s Scandanavian expert make you think twice about the Danish side’s chances.

The most predictable thing about FC Copenhagen’s tactics in the Champions League has been their unpredictability. Coach Ståle Solbakken has not so much imposed a style or philosophy on his players as instilled tactical flexibility into them. The Norwegian has meticulously tweaked and shuffled his strategies to suit the circumstances, never afraid to make bold decisions and almost always getting them right.

Among the shifting tactics are clues to how the Danish champions will set up on Tuesday. When FCK went to the Nou Camp in October their status as underdogs was more palpable than against Chelsea, but Solbakken nevertheless played two strikers. The plan to press Barça high up almost paid off, and a 2-0 defeat spoke less of Copenhagen’s performance than of Lionel Messi’s irrepressible brilliance.

Solbakken is not afraid to make such bold tactical decisions, and both César Santin and Dame N’Doye look likely to start on Tuesday. N’Doye will target John Terry’s lack of pace, playing on the shoulder of the Chelsea captain as he did against Gilberto Silva in September. Santin plays more fluidly, dropping deep to draw a defender out or drifting wide to exploit spaces between right-back and centre-back.

Jesper Grønkjær, afforded freedom by Santin’s roaming and Oscar Wendt’s tireless running from full-back, can move infield to probe at the Chelsea backline. A potential flipside to Grønkjær’s inclusion on the left, though, is that carillero Martin Vingaard will drop to the bench, denying FCK both his attacking threat and the potential to directly negate Ramires.

FCK, like many opponents, will see neutralising Ashley Cole as the key to shackling Chelsea. Right-back Ždenek Pospečh, usually seen galloping up the wing in tandem with winger Christian Bolaños, has shown a sober defensive intelligence in the Champions League, particularly when pinned back by Sebastián Leto in the win at Panathinaikos. The Czech’s duel with Cole may prove the most decisive encounter of the tie.

Exploiting space behind the full-backs represents Chelsea’s best chance of exposing FCK’s central defenders, since space between the lines will be at a premium. With midfielders Claudemir and William Kvist sitting in front of the centre-backs, it was this area that Barcelona struggled to penetrate in their 1-1 draw at Parken.

Copenhagen’s most dangerous weapon, though, is on the bench. Ståle Solbakken possesses a tactical dexterity beyond his years and, more impressively, has built his success on intelligence and adaptability rather than a single ideology or innovation. Chelsea wouldn’t be the first high-profile opponent to suddenly find FCK, those minnows of the knockout round, to be uncomfortably competent and disarmingly well-prepared.

After an unbelievable start to this season’s league campaign Chelsea have stuttered. However five wins from six in the group stage has Carlo Ancelotti’s men as one of the favourite teams to be lining up at Wembley Stadium in May. Brent Atema from Global Football Today advises his club to tread with caution.

Chelsea travel to Copenhagen Tuesday hoping to keep their last chance at a trophy alive.  After being knocked out of the Carling Cup and FA Cup, and all but eliminated from contention for the league, if the Blues cannot focus and show desire and heart in this UEFA Champions League match, than their chances of claiming a trophy — the most sought after trophy at the club — will be in serious jeopardy.

Many people will look at this competition and only focus on the names “Chelsea” and “Københaven” and predict an easy win for the West Londoners.  However, no victory has been easy for Chelsea recently, having won only seven of their last 21 matches in all competitions.

The major question for Carlo Ancelotti and his high-priced superstars is whether they can come up with a formation that works.  Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba appear to struggle when played together.  Nicolas Anelka playing behind two strikers has been a dumpster fire.

So what does Ancelotti do?  Does he stick with Drogba after a lackluster FA Cup performance against Everton?  Does he stick Torres up front and return to the 4-3-3 that seems to fit the Chelsea squad so well?  Correctly answering these questions could be the key to salvaging Chelsea’s season and saving Ancelotti’s job.

Projected Formation: 4-3-3 with Cech, Bosignwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Kalou, Torres, and Malouda.


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February 22nd, 2011

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