José Bosingwa may be the player selected for the unenviable task of marking FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, but according to Chelsea FC winger Florent Malouda it is a team effort that holds the key for the London side.
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Chelsea FC coach Guus Hiddink may have little option but to pit José Bosingwa against Lionel Messi in Tuesday's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg, but winger Florent Malouda believes teamwork, and not the performance of the out-of-position Portuguese full-back, will be key to the Londoners getting a result away to FC Barcelona.
With regular left-back Ashley Cole suspended, and potential deputy Ricardo Carvalho missing with a hamstring injury, Hiddink will deploy right-back Bosingwa on the opposite side of a four-man defence at the Camp Nou. The 26-year-old has played less than an hour of football – in his new position during Saturday's 1-0 defeat of West Ham United FC – in a month because of a hamstring strain of his own. He is likely to be in for a testing night as he squares off against Messi, the competition's eight-goal leading scorer.
When asked whether he had trained specifically with Bosingwa for this European opener, left-winger Malouda said: "Since he's been back from injury we've spoken a lot, and will speak a lot more preparing for this game. But it's not just about José, it's about teamwork. Everybody is focused on José because he's facing Messi, but everybody in this team helps everyone else; he'll need us and we'll need him. Messi is really impressive, not many players can do what he does on the pitch, but hopefully tomorrow we won't see his qualities."
Upturn in fortunes
Unity has been a feature of this Chelsea side since Hiddink replaced Luiz Felipe Scolari on a temporary contract for the rest of the season in February, the Blues only losing once in 15 games following his appointment. Malouda has been integral to that upturn in fortunes, finally finding his feet after struggling to adapt under three previous managers after his €20m move from Olympique Lyonnais in summer 2007.
With this semi-final to come, as well as an FA Cup final against Everton FC on 30 May, the French international believes "now is the perfect time to be in form". He added: "It's always difficult [to play at your peak] if you have fitness problems, especially in the English league. I started the season well then had a few physical issues which needed addressing. I kept working every day and now you can see the results. I'm enjoying playing for Chelsea and it's great to be involved in a game like this."
Turning his attention to the Spanish Liga leaders, the 28-year-old said: "Everybody enjoys the way Barcelona play their football. They have an attacking style and score a lot of goals. I respect that and hope we can show that we can match them. We're in the semi-finals because we won the right to be here. When you reach this stage everyone wants to go on and reach the final. We came here with an ambition to do something special." With Chelsea, and Malouda, in form, that might just be possible.