clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Barcelona head coach Valverde wary of the challenge posed by Conte’s tactics

Valverde says Chelsea play like Girona, but what does that mean?

FC Barcelona Training Session Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Ahead of what turned out to be a rather dull press conference from Antonio Conte — the Chelsea head coach saying all the right things, but journalists asking few, if any questions of genuine interest or import — Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde spoke to the assembled media as well ahead of tonight’s massive Champions League showdown at Stamford Bridge.

The former Athletic Bilbao player and later manager had some nice things to say about Chelsea (at least from our point of view) and urged his team to be cautious tonight. While Valverde initially also spoke about the threat posed by English teams in general, especially this year, he then went on to specify the danger presented by Chelsea, comparing Conte’s Blues to the style of ... Girona? You what?

“We wish Chelsea had finished first in their group so we didn’t have to play them. They’re the Premier League champions, a very strong team there on merit. English teams this year are in incredible form, much better than in previous years. Chelsea might be the same. We know that, because the English have such a strong league, they’ll all be up there competing.

“Chelsea have a unique style of football and know their own game. The English style of football is very unique, very physical, but they play good football as well. It’s different playing Chelsea because of their formation, but Girona play with a similar system in La Liga so we’ve played against it before.”

Girona are a rather surprising 8th in La Liga, which isn’t too bad considering it’s their first ever season in Spain’s top flight. It’s also their first ever season as part of City Football Group, joining Manchester City’s growing global football empire last summer.

So it’s not quite clear if Valverde truly meant this as a compliment or as a semi-sneaky insult, but if playing like Girona is what it takes to knock out Barcelona, then Antonio Conte better be brushing up on all his Girona tactics.

Actually, it turns out that Girona’s Pablo Machín has basically implemented Conte’s 3-4-3 this season, and no other La Liga side have used that system regularly this season.

As per that report, Girona’s success also owes a lot to their “collective ethos and organisation”. Chelsea’s mission is thus clear. Fortunately we have a head coach who’s well versed in fostering just such a collective ethos and organisation.

“He’s one of the best managers in the world with a great record. You can see the quality of his coaching in the teams he coaches. He’s got the classic Italian methods: very strong defensively and can counter at any moment. It’s very clearly a team run by him.

“Of course, previous games do count. You have to look at them, though they have little to do with what will happen tomorrow in reality. The key players change from time to time – Messi and Iniesta are still there, obviously. There’s a bit of rivalry between the teams, which is a good thing. It makes it more of a spectacle, more interesting.”

-Ernesto Valverde; source: Guardian

The rivalry has been dormant since 2012. Now it’s time to rekindle it.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the We Ain't Got No History Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Chelsea news from We Ain't Got No History