Venue: Nou Camp
Date: Tuesday 24 April
Kick-off: 1945 BST
Whilst last week’s semi-final against Barcelona provoked the odd bitten nail, we at least went into it with nothing to lose considering we’d already been written off. Obviously we’re still expected to lose but this time, we go into it with a 1-0 lead, so having got ourselves into that position, losing would feel a lot worse.
The weekend’s bore draw with Barca’s sister club has done little to inspire confidence, although we could potentially point to the changes in personnel and fixture fatigue for that. But the worrying thing is, that having just about cocked up any hopes they had of challenging Real Madrid in La Liga after their defeat this weekend, Barca will undoubtedly have put all their eggs in their Champions League basket as well.
Having failed against Real Madrid at the weekend, Barca coach Pep Guardiola expects his players to do a better job of it against us, saying “We will see (on Tuesday) whether we will pass this test, but I think (the players) will lift themselves up and look at the manner of how things will go against Chelsea. What happens against Chelsea will mark the rest of our season. I don’t think we are spent physically. Now we have to play our best game possible. Although the guys have not had long to recover, they have had setbacks like this before and risen to the challenge.”
Roberto Di Matteo meanwhile, given it’s Barcelona is clear of the risks, saying “Every player from our team and their team is at risk of being sent off. It’s going to be a high-intensity game, mentally as well, with pressure. Every player that’s going to go on the pitch is at risk.” Mind you, if we can keep 11 men on the pitch for a change, RDM insists the desire is there to give Barca a game, saying “The personal ambition of these players comes through in these games. You can see the drive and also quality that these players have. They want to show it and I think there is a good group of players here that have shown it in past and are now continuing to show their great strength. Whether it’s the last, that’s a question mark. Nobody knows what the future holds for ourselves. But, certainly, when you are in your 30s, you know your career is not as long as it was in your 20s. Every time you are in this competition, you just have the sheer will to win. That’s why these athletes play at these big clubs because they have this ambition to be winners.”
For Barcelona, Pique is hoping to return after missing the first leg and Fabregas should also be in the squad after missing the weekend’s game, as should Lionel Messi after missing training with ‘light phyical discomfort’.
For Chelsea, David Luiz (hamstring) is not expected to be back, whilst Didier Drogba (knee) seems to be a bit borderline for a starting place.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Ivanovic, Bosingwa, Terry, Cahill, Cole, Bertrand, Mikel, Essien, Meireles, Lampard, Ramires, Mata, Malouda, Drogba, Torres, Sturridge, Kalou, Turnbull.
Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona (18th April 2012)
If we lose from here it’ll be gutting but whilst my heart knows that, my head won’t let me acknowledge any other result because whilst I know we’ve lost to Barcelona with 11 men on the field, keeping them 11 men for the entire 180 minutes against Barcelona doesn’t generally happen………