Chelsea’s epic 4-4 draw at Stamford Bridge against Liverpool drew high praise from football fans, with some going as far to call it the match of the century.
The reward for the Blues was a berth in the Champions League semifinals against Barcelona, and that two-legged tie begins today at Camp Nou.
History lesson: There’s good news and bad news for Chelsea and its history in Barcelona. The Blues have scored five goals in their last four visits, but have two draws in the 2006 group stage and two losses in 2005 and 2000 to show for their efforts. Add in a pair of defeats in 1966 and Chelsea’s record at Camp Nou is 0-2-4.
Last time out: Chelsea took a 1-0 win at Upton Park against West Ham United on Saturday on Solomon Kalou’s goal in the 55th minute. Barca used a goal from Thierry Henry in the 85th minute to snatch a 2-2 draw against Valencia at the Mestalla.
Matchup to watch, part one – Barcalona’s Lionel Messi vs. Chelsea’s Jose Bosingwa: Ashley Cole’s suspension pushes Bosingwa into action defending one of the most dynamic attacking players in the world. Despite Messi’s 21 goals in La Liga and eight more in Champions League action, Bosingwa isn’t showing any fear.
He told The Daily Mail that, “I’m prepared for the challenge, It is no problem marking Messi. Messiis a big star worldwide but it is possible to stop him withpatience and calm. You need to keep him under pressure. I have experience playing with Porto and Portugal against big players, and now with Chelsea. I do not fear the Argentine.”
Still, don’t be surprised if the rest of the Chelsea rear guard shades slightly left to account for Messi. It will be interesting to see if the Blues, currently on a run of about 250 minutes without allowing a goal, can keep up their defensive resurgence against the soon-to-be Spanish champions.
Matchup to watch, part two – Chelsea’s Didier Drogba vs. the Barca back line: For all of the on-again, off-again transfer chatter, the diving accusations and his sheer indifference at times, perhaps no striker on the planet is as dangerous on form as the Ivory Coast international.
Drogba has five goals in his last five Champions League matches, but he’s been hot and cold at Camp Nou. In 2005, he was sent off for a challenge with Barca keeper Victor Valdes, missing the return leg in London. But he found the back of the net in both the home and away ties when these teams last met.
Can Drogba add to his Champions League tally against a stingy, if largely unchallenged, Barca defense today?
Strategies: Barcelona doesn’t make much mystery of its intentions, fielding a world-class front line of Messi, Henry and Samuel Eto’o. Midfielders Xavi and Andres Iniesta run the show in the middle, sparking an attack that’s produced 94 goals in La Liga this season and 33 more in the Champions League.
Chelsea gaffer Guus Hiddink is talking tough, telling The Guardian, “We know we are facing maybe the best team in the world at the moment, and a team with a very attractive style, but we’ve got to put the brakes on them and take the initiative.
“If we just wait and get scared by the actions of whoever – their strikers, or one or two of their midfield players – we lose this game. We have to take the initiative and try, as we did in Liverpool, to score our own goals.”
That’s all well and good, but Chelsea might just try to get a goal and not get run out of the tie, as Bayern Munich did last month in a 4-0 loss in the Catalan capital.