Tata started with all the midfielders in first leg of CL quarter finals, which was a tense, end to end match resulting in 1-1 draw. It was a match, controlled very well by the Blaugranas in the midfield, which is stated by their 71% possession, 19 shots out of which 6 were on target. But are these stats enough to get the upper hand in the Vicente Calderon?
Undoubtedly this man has to start at the crucial focal point of Barcelona's midfield. Busquets has shown his consistency vey well in recent matches and he steps up against big teams too. He'll have a tough time for shutting down the plays of Koke, Arda Turan and Gabi. It's not gonna be usual business for him, as he's got to handle the reins of possession and ball play up in attacks too. While a part of me says that Atletico will focus on usual bus parking, the other part is worrying about their focus on troubling us in counters and physical plays. Busquets is well known for his interceptions, under Tata he's also able to quick start the counters after gaining possession. Busi tries unusual stuffs too, as he tried to test Courtois' reactions with his shot from outside the box.
His brilliant form and majestic presence on the field dismantles opponent's confidence and hardwork. Don has been brilliant since Martino brought him back in action. Continuation of the trends of draws against Atletico is because of this guy's exceptional Vision, leading to the only Barca goal at the Nou Camp. Iniesta was surely the MVP of that match and was a constant threat to opponents defense, also with ball practically glued at his feet, (a trait only to be seen in King Leo and Don Iniesta ;)) his dribbles caused havoc in the hearts of Juanfran and Miranda. A wall of players lining in front of Courtois was the only option to stop Iniesta conducting his plays and shattering opponent's armour. Definitely has to start In the second leg but not in the Forward Position !
Questions about the whether Cesc or Xavi will be the debate and the talking point till the kick off of the game and this basic and simple decision will either land softly or harshly on Tata, depending on the result.
It's basically about how a person has the preview of this match. Each and everyone has a different opinion and everyone is entitled to it. While Stats says Cesc should start, control and possession says Xavi should start. Both are excellent players and are able to step up in matches like this. While Xavi boasts of his Pass completion of an average 94% and 97 passes per game, with 4 goals and 5 assists in CL and League, Cesc shows off with his attacking nature with 9 goals and 13 assists in CL and League combined, also having a pass success rate of 86% and 62 passes per game. Fabregas has been quite lately and he doesn't provide any threats, but that's mainly due to his shift of position in every game. Utilised in attack, defense and playmaking, Cesc have shown very rare faults. Xavi on the other hand, orchestrates the game with his brilliant Harmonics in midfield and contribution of musical notes in attack. His array of passes and finding spaces have led to goal scoring chances in many crucial matches, never inconsistent, but lately over usage, exhausts him and also physicality of opponents troubles him.
Looking back at the 0-0 at Calderon, At. Madrid were not letting Barca set their passing momentum. Back then we had a Superb impenetrable V.Valdes, also with great defending by Pique and Co. We saw very little in the attack with Messi and Pedro testing Courtois occasionallly. It was a League game and that's why we can't base those performances with current one. Being in UCL quarters provides a different pressure than a normal League game. Even if Atletico try to test Pinto and not sit back they will have to do it without Costa (probably), who was the main danger man against equally dazzling Valdes.
Coming back to the point. Xavi and Cesc have different approach towards the game in which they start. Xavi proves why he is the starting material for matches like Clasico or like the one against City. Both Real and City play with full attacking power, troubling opponents by gameplay in the wings. Pin point crosses with True #9 to deal with it, and the super fast counters with breath taking runs and finishing is what defines their game. Atletico Madrid (@ home) are a team which tries to build up play, develop counters, long shots, frequent crossing and testing the keeper, bus parking and also disturbing opponent's tempo with series of fouls. With a 1-1 score in mind, Xavi will first try to figure out their game without their chief player Costa. This injury for Costa may work as a blessing in disguise for the Atletis or deal a huge blow on their confidence ( just like how we performed WELL in Messi's absence, each player stepped up with a motive to show the world that Barca is Not Just Messi !). With the presence of both Xavi and Iniesta on the field, possibility of us settling into a good possession play for first 10-20 min. are high. Building up attacks, troubling the rivals with ball keeping and finding spaces for the FINAL PASS is what Xavi will try to achieve. Negatives will include him being bullied by Arda, Koke, Miranda, Godin and Gabi. The usual trend which I have noticed is that - the opposition will let Xavi conduct play for first 30-40 minutes or so, while they will usually do the bus parking and just as Xavi loses his patience, they catch him on the wrong foot by bombarding 4-5 players on him, and once Xavi loses the ball, and Busquets and the defence is not ready for it, breakthrough occurs .... Without a calm and composed Busi and Pique/Masch, our defense is scrambled.
No doubt Xavi is important in every BIG match, but can he prove his significance against young players like Koke, Turan etc. He sets the play, he sets the flow but is he the man to call for, when we need attacking, fast and relentless football ? Again, beyond the shadow of doubt, Xavi can give those killer passes and stretch enemy's defence with his final touch, but will he be able attain that for the full 90 min in a do or die match. Hmmm ......
Talking about Cesc. Yes, it's obvious that if he starts there will be a game with less control and less in charge of the ball. Cesc is obviously not Xavi and there will be no other in the world like him. Cesc can control the ball but can't keep it, he can give assists and work out the one-twos but he's not able to be decisive with it, he can gain possession but cant hold onto it, he can provide explicit crosses but can't go with it consistently, he's able to bring back the rhythm but not able to maintain it, he's able to tackle well but can't be clean with it every time. Becomes an Assassin for the first 30 min, then a victim for next 30 min. This is what people usually say about his game and his style of play. I do agree with it but I'll call it a usual nature of a Playmaking Midfielder. Look at Ozil, in the beginning of his career at Arsenal, he proved clinical and blood thirsty playmaker, topping the assists charts just from the start, he looked as if he'll single handedly take Arsenal on top ;later as days went by he started becoming inconsistent, uninterested and erratic player. Good thing is that, at least Cesc has not shown such downfall in his form. Problem with Fabregas is not able to perform his role upto his full potential. Tata trusts him, but he puts faith on him for various different reasons. Tata uses Francesc for Attack when Messi is absent, uses him as a pseudo striker when Messi is still not 100% fit, uses him in defense for shut down of plays from Opponents genius midfielders (Yaya, Silva, Modric).
I don't know the intricate reasons why Tata had to bench Don Iniesta for matches at the start of this season's campaign, but as soon as he plays Iniesta and the Don hits an unbelievable, insurmountable form, Cesc is switched to an accessory role. Notice from the start of the season, Cesc has been a regular starting choice for Tata but Leo's injury shifted him as an Accessory to fix attacking problems, starting 4 midfielders led Cesc to be an accessory to help Busquets, and again an accessory to Iniesta with the former being in form. But yes, this is absolutely not an excuse for his bad performances in some "easy matches" like against Valencia at home etc. Yes, he loses possession and gives away easy balls. Though he seems to be "invisible" for most of the time in matches (according to the neutrals) his off the ball movement is pretty good which exactly defines his high attacking work rates. His vertical balls and pin-point passes have led to many goals. Fabregas is a tough guy and he can't get bullied by even rough guys easily. Coming on from the bench for Xavi against Betis, he provided a breath taking lobbed pass to Messi, who could have easily reached it but only to bet outrun by a defender. Gave a couple of key passes and a brilliant one two with Leo, also with a, just wide finesse shot, in the 15-20 minutes which he played.
Fabregas and Iniesta have combined very well in the matches where they both started. The question is, will Fabregas be able to show his attacking form, which he had at the start of the season; NOW ? At the very difficult away stadium ? Will he be able to show his genius play with the ball alongside Don Iniesta ? Or will he squander chances and waste possession leading to a bad start ?
EVERYTHING IS AT STAKE !!!
BARCA HAS TO WIN IT AND PROVE THE DOUBTERS WRONG !!!
Concluding it, in a lay man's language - Start Xavi, defence have to worry less, attack has to worry a bit. Start Cesc attack has to worry less, defence has to worry a bit.
SO CULES ARE WE HEADING FOR AN ATTACKING OR A POSSESSIVE FOOTBALL AT THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUARTERS ???
Visca el Barca !¡