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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
Whenever there's a hurricane warning in Florida, the news stations show the same footage. Plucky Americans frantically nailing two-by-fours across their windows, occasionally turning round to look in trepidation at the gathering storm behind them. From the safety of your own front room, you always think the same thing. How on earth are those bits of wood going to stop a 120mph wrath of God-style catastrophe? Just run away! I was reminded of this on Saturday when I saw Jose Bosingwa lining up at left-back for Chelsea, apparently in a dress rehearsal for the man-to-man marking job he's going to do on Lionel Messi. It doesn't matter how securely you fix him in, the Argentine genius could blow him into the upper tier.

Not that you can blame Guus Hiddink, he has exactly got many options at his disposal. The Chelsea board sold perpetual back-up Wayne Bridge to Manchester City without replacing him and with Ashley Cole suspended just when the club need him most, it's Bosingwa or the cumbersome Paolo Ferreira and that doesn't even bear thinking about. Someone really should have planned for this eventuality.

Hiddink's thinking must be that Bosingwa is one of the few players quick enough to keep up with the pint-sized phenomenon. Alright, so his natural right-footedness may mean that he'll be struggling if he ever does get the ball and there's no guarantee of that happening anyway, but at least it's a plan, eh? The real concern for Chelsea fans is that Bosingwa has never really shown much sign of defensive awareness anyway. He's one of those 21st century full-backs, the Da Silva generation of lithe, young athletes who get forward and overlap before they start worrying about trivialities like, you know, tackling and stuff. It doesn't bode well, does it?

Messi, according to the Barcelona-based journalists who sneaked into Stamford Bridge for Chelsea's midweek 0-0 draw, is better than ever and stretching out to a new plateau of greatness. He's still the size of a kitten, but he's growing in strength, accustomed to the constant attention of man-markers and entirely unflustered by pressure. There are even those who believe that he has now left Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo behind and that he can be put in a class of his own. After watching their scrap with Everton, none of the visiting reporters gave Hiddink's side anything more than an outside chance and, while that's not entirely surprising as Spanish journalists carry their club loyalties through their careers while the English politely leave them at the door and pick them up on retirement, it is a little ominous. Chelsea usually inspire a little more fear than this.

Objectively, there are lots of reasons for Chelsea fans to believe that they can upset the odds at the Camp Nou. Frank Lampard is in the form of his life, Didier Drogba is revitalised and Florent Malouda actually looks like a decent footballer for once. The Blues are a notoriously resilient side who have proved in recent weeks that they can respond to shifting scenarios, especially now that they have a tactical genius in the dug-out. You can go on and on with the list of positives, but that one name continues to echo back at you. Messi. Messi. Messi.

Smells like there's a storm brewin'.