FC Barcelona v Chelsea
UEFA Champions League
Semi-Final 1st Leg
Camp Nou, Barcelona
Kick 0ff – 20.45 CET
Barcelona welcome Chelsea to the Camp Nou tonight for the Champions League semi-final 1st leg and will be hoping to produce another performance like the quarter-final 1st leg display against Bayern Munich, which saw the Catalan’s score four first half goals against the shell shocked Germans.
This is the first game in a crucial period in Barca’s quest for a treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League trophies with a visit to Real Madrid to look forward to next Saturday, the return leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday, an extremely tricky La Liga clash at Villareal and the Copa del Rey final three days later against Athletic Bilbao in Valencia.
This will be without a doubt Barca’s toughest test to date in the Champions League with Chelsea looking to put an end to their two-year trophyless drought in style by landing themselves a double of FA Cup and Champions League.
While many in the Camp Nou dressing room still view La Liga and this weekend’s El Clasico blockbuster with Madrid as a more important competition than the Champions League, it is Champions League glory what Chelsea are really after and it has become owner, Roman Abramovich’s personal holy grail over the past few years.
Chelsea have only lost once since Guus Hiddink took over the hot-seat in earlier this year and he has restored the team spirit and unity that was evident during the Jose Mourinho era. After their 3-1 win at Anfield against Liverpool in the first leg of the quarter-finals, they are full of belief that they can win just about anywhere.
Barcelona welcome back defender Rafa Marquez from suspension but Sergio Busquets, Dani Alves and Carles Puyol will all miss the second leg if they pick up another booking. Martin Caceres and Gabriel Milito are both out injured, but the good news is that Lionel Messi, who was suffering from stomach cramps this time last week, played the full 90 minutes against Valencia at the weekend without any problems. Captain Carles Puyol, if selected will play his 100th international game for the Catalan’s.
Chelsea will be without left back Ashley Cole who is suspended and Hiddink is expected to switch Jose Bosingwa to that flank to nullify Messi’s threat. But crucially, centre-back, John Terry is back after serving out his own one-game ban and his presence will be vital as Ricardo Carvalho looks certain to miss out due to a hamstring problem while Deco is also nursing a similar ailment. Nicolas Anelka will miss the return clash if he gets another yellow card in Catalunya.
Barca coach Pep Guardiola has ordered his side to attack Chelsea in order to ensure that they take a considerable advantage to London for the second leg and with Guss Hiddink saying pretty much the same to his side spectators could well be treated to an entertaining spectacle of free-flowing football. Guardiola is fully aware of the importance of keeping a clean sheet at home but also the merits of establishing a lead that they can defend in the second leg. He told journalists at yesterdays press conference, “We must work hard from the very first minute to counteract the power of the English side”
Apr 25 Valencia 2-2 Barcelona (LA LIGA)
Apr 22 Barcelona 4-0 Sevilla (LA LIGA)
Apr 18 Getafe 0-1 Barcelona (LA LIGA)
Apr 14 Bayern Munich 1-1 Barcelona (CHAMPIONS LEAGUE)
Apr 11 Barcelona 2-0 Recreativo Huelva (LA LIGA)
Apr 25 West Ham United 0-1 Chelsea (PREMIER LEAGUE)
Apr 22 Chelsea 0-0 Everton (PREMIER LEAGUE)
Apr 18 Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea (FA CUP)
Apr 14 Chelsea 4-4 Liverpool (CHAMPIONS LEAGUE)
Apr 11 Chelsea 4-3 Bolton Wanderers (PREMIER LEAGUE)
Probable Starting XI’s
Barcelona: Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Puyol (c), Pique, Abidal, Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Messi, Eto’o, Henry
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry (c), Bosingwa, Essien, Ballack, Kalou, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba
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