CHELSEA V BARCELONA – UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMIFINALS PREVIEW
The fires of injustice from that night 3 years ago, when Andres Iniesta struck in stoppage time, are raging again as Chelsea get ready to face Barcelona in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League.
Barcelona have dominated world football over the last few years, beating the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid comprehensively but they cannot say the same about Chelsea. In the 8 times, Chelsea have faced Barcelona since 2005, there have been 4 draws and 2 wins apiece (both Barcelona wins came with Chelsea down to ten men)
In 2005, Chelsea overturned a 2-1 first leg deficit to race away to a 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge. Eventually, the Blues held off a Ronaldinho-inspired Barca fight back to progress to the quarter finals.
In 2006, again down to ten men in the first leg, the Blues were beaten 2-1 at the Bridge with Eto’o scoring. In the return leg, a late Ronaldinho goal all but clinched it for Barca, rendering Lampard's injury time penalty a consolation.
Later on in 2006, the two sides met in the group stages when a brilliant Drogba strike settled the tie at Stamford Bridge while Lampard’s zero-degree magic and a late Drogba goal saw Chelsea grab a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp. This match saw 10 players yellow carded. The CL record for yellow cards is 11.
3 years on, Mourinho had long left Chelsea and Hiddink had come in after Grant and Scolari had failed. A brilliant defensive display saw Chelsea come away from the first leg at the Nou Camp with a 0-0 scoreline. In the 2nd leg, Essien’s thunderbolt looked set to hand Chelsea progress to the final for the second year running despite numerous calls for a penalty being turned down. In the end, the missed chances and the penalties not awarded came back to bite Chelsea big time
“It’s Iniestaaa.. and the Chelsea fans cover their eyes in horror”
It was tough to take in that away goals defeat, especially after the Luis Garcia ghost goal and the penalty shootout losses to Liverpool and ManU. Chelsea had created more chances and were by far the better team on the night but it was still not enough to set up a 2008 Champions League final rematch.
Since then, Barcelona have twice won the Champions League and have solidified their status as one of the greatest teams ever while Chelsea, apart from the League and Cup double in 2010 have slid down the football hierarchy.
Barca held off a spirited challenge from AC Milan in the group stages to progress as Group H winners. Bayer Leverkusen, who beat Chelsea 2-1 in the group stages, were trounced by 5 Messi goals as Barca coasted into the quarter-finals. AC Milan provided a much stiffer challenge, but Barca overcame Milan’s resilience in the second leg to progress 3-1 on aggregate.
Chelsea finished top of Group E, despite failing to win any of their away games from winning positions. Valencia were beaten comprehensively at the Bridge on Matchday 6 while Genk did Chelsea a favor by holding Bayer Leverkusen to a 1-1 draw. Napoli awaited the Blues in the Round of 16 and it was truly a tale of 2 halves. Annihilated at Naples, the Chelsea old guard stepped up at the Bridge to send Chelsea through after extra-time. In the quarter-finals against Benfica, it was much closer than the 3-1 aggregate score suggested as a late Raul Meireles strike sent Chelsea through
“Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.”
-Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
“Everyone’s got unfinished business with them. That game (2009) is certainly in our minds, but this is a completely different year. So, we need to try and beat them”
“Let me be honest, I don't think the final will be a Real Madrid/Chelsea final. It could be Bayern or Barcelona, I just don't think it will be Real Madrid v Chelsea and we know why.”
“Barcelona aren't the favourites, they are super-favourites”
The quotes speak for themselves. Let me be honest, the task for Chelsea is definitely daunting but NOT impossible. If the defense stays rigid, then a smash-and-grab is not out of question but by no means will it be easy. Barcelona will be quietly confident while Chelsea will come in with spirit and a nothing-to-lose attitude. One glorious night can set this horror season straight for Chelsea but Barcelona will come all guns blazing to defend their crown.
The backdrop is set-up. The characters are in place. The magic of the Champions League will capture us again. Whatever happens, come April 18, when the players go out on the pitch, expect fireworks.
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