Chelsea FC vs FC Barcelona: Champions League semi-final 1st leg preview

Chelsea versus Barça. A repeat of the controversial semi-final in 2009. A massive week for Football Club Barcelona begins on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge with the 1st leg of the Uefa Champions League semi final. Saturday’s clasico and the battle with Real Madrid for La Liga will be forgotten for the next 48 hours as Pep Guardiola’s team attempt to make the third Champions League final in four years.

Ibrahim Afellay returns to the squad after seven months and Seydou Keita is back too. Both players, as well as Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves, trained normally at Camp Nou this afternoon (Monday). Pep Guardiola named 22 players for the trip to London including Oier, Bartra, Montoya and Tello, and the team are flying out to England as I write, with an expected arrival time in London of 21.30.

To get an idea of the team Pep Guardiola will choose we might look at the team that played in Milan in the quarter final. Alves should return to a defence of four and we may see Carles Puyol at left back to make room for Piqué alongside Javier Mascherano. Guardiola nearly always finds a place for Keita in this type of game and if the Malian is totally fit there is a good chance he’ll start with Busquets and Xavi in midfield. This would mean Iniesta is used again wide on the left with the right left open for Alves while Alexis and Messi play through the middle.

Chelsea look like being without central defender David Luiz who came off with a hamstring injury during yesterday’s 5-1 win over Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley. Gary Cahill would normally come in alongside John Terry but Cahill has a bruised foot and Terry has been troubled by a cracked rib. Terry should play but if Luiz and Cahill are out then Branislav Ivanovic will come in at centre back with Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole continuing as full backs. Frank Lampard and Mikel look likely to start in central midfield with Ramires and Juan Mata providing width. Kalou will then probably support either Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres up front. Drogba got the start against Tottenham but came off with a slight problem. It seems likely that Torres will be preferred for his speed as Chelsea look to exploit the space behind our advanced defence.

The two sides are old enemies in the Champions League, there have been ten matches in the last 13 years, and there are three wins each with four draws. Barça’s last win over 90 minutes was in 2006 with an inspired 18-year-old called Lionel Messi playing his first game in England and Samuel Eto’o heading home the winner. There have been four draws and a Chelsea win since then but the last two draws in 2009 semi-final ended in ecstasy for Barça with Andres Iniesta’s last minute goal sending Barça through to the final on away goals.

Iniesta’s goal demonstrated how fortunes can change in a moment. The games with Chelsea have always been tough so we must take our chances when we get them. With the momentous week in front of us we have to accept the possibility that we may lose both the Champions and the Liga in a week. The important thing is that we are here competing for both in the latter stages of the competitions. We may not win everything but we should at least enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Barça squad: Valdés, Pinto, Oier, Alves, Bartra, Montoya, Piqué, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano, Keita, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Fabregas, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Afellay, Cuenca, Tello.

Possible starting XIs:

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Ramires, Kalou, Mata; Torres.

Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Puyol; Xavi, Busquets, Keita; Alexis, Messi, Iniesta.

My prediction: Chelsea 1 Barça 1

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16 Responses to Chelsea FC vs FC Barcelona: Champions League semi-final 1st leg preview

  1. Xavi says:

    I have a good feeling about this one. I think Pep will be a bit more attack minded and we’ll win 0-3

  2. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    We should look to pound them……and get the away win. I smell blood in the Chelsea defence. Here’s our chance. We should be brave!! Forca Barca!!!

  3. Fredegar says:

    A very interesting tactical battle and some pretty important choices to make for both coaches. On Chelsea’s side, Di Matteo must decide if he will go with Torres to counterattack quickly or with Drogba to keep the ball up (always useful against us to relieve the pressure) and add to the danger in the air. Or would he dare to go with both at home? Probably not, as they will almost certainly sit deep and try to hurt us as much as they can.
    On our side, Guardiola will have to decide if he takes a safety first approach as he did in Milan, thus playing Keita, or if he will be a bit more adventurous and keep Busquets-Iniesta-Xavi in the midfield. An interesting point is that if Bosingwa plays at right back for Chelsea, there might be a weakness there, but maybe not a weakness that Iniesta is the best equipped to take advantage of, so Pedro, Tello or Cuenca could have an impact on this wing. For what it’s worth, I predict Chelsea will start with Drogba and we will start with Keita, but Pep is so unpredictable that it’s difficult to guess what he will do.
    After their demolition of Napoli, it’s impossible not to talk of Chelsea’s danger on dead balls. We’ve been less sensitive in this area these last weeks, but mostly because we conceded very few set pieces more than because we defended them better. A repeat of this feat would be very welcome in this game.
    So our worst ennemy stands once more in our way. A difficult game awaits, but as Nic stated we should be grateful to have the chance to show them once and for all how football is played!

  4. mjmare says:

    Tough choices will have to be made, this is a defining week of the season.
    But will a cautious or adventurous approach be taken?
    I say that given who we are playing and how the games between Barca and Chelsea have gone, it will be a tough match seeing as Chelsea seem to have a good fighting quality about them, and will want to push us. Therefore the strongest team should play.

    I would say: Valdes-Alves-Pique-Masch-Puyol-Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta-Pedro-Messi-Alexis.

    Barca 2-0

  5. barcacentralenrique says:

    this is going to be a tough game. i expect chelsea to be dirty, physical, and every time they fouls will pretend like we dived and try to get the referee and public on their side to demonize us. id love a big win, like 3-0 or 4-1 to shut up chelsea fans and stick another one to the prem. i dont see this, i see a frustrating 1-1 or so with a lot of poor backlash thursday. im excited, come on, its champions league semifinals

  6. bc9jaCulé says:

    Nice preview there. But I totally disagree with your prediction. Admittedly, Chelsea have always been a thorn in Barça’s football flesh but come on, we have tactically evolved in geometric proportions over the years. Truth is; it’s a totally different Barça they are facing & not that of 2009. We’ll be too hot & sophisticated for them to handle, trust me. My only major concern is Pep’s decision to start Keita or not. Anyways, all I see is a Barça victory tonight and if “The MIX” (Messi-Iniesta-Xavi) gets to start & bring their ‘A’ game, we WILL end up thumping them well.

    Chelsea 0
    Barça 3

    Visca Barça!!!!!
    Força Barça!!!!!

  7. barcacentralnic says:

    If Chelsea play like they have played for much of the season then a 0-3 is possible. However, I think Chelsea will play above themselves and complicate things for us.Their older players will be really up for it. After watching last night’s Batern-Madrid game I won’t be too displeased if we get a score draw.

    • Fredegar says:

      I would be very pleased with a score draw! Of course a trashing would be great and is not beyond imagination, but a 2-2 for example would be a great result to take to Barcelona. Chelsea know that if they are to stand a chance, they must limit our scoring and try to get the advantage at home, such has been our home form this year. So if we can start the game at Camp Nou as the qualfied team, that would already be a huge boost and Chelsea would find very few reasons for hope.

  8. Xavi says:

    I love Guardiola’s reply to the stupid question put to him in last night’s press conference about Ibrahimovic’s accusation about diving.

    “Mr Ibrahimovic played with his team-mates, so he knows better than the rest of the world the quality of these players. They are just focused on playing. Take the ball, pass the ball, take the ball, pass the ball. Diving, for the swimming pool”

  9. Comfi says:

    The Chelsea of 2009 was different, most of their players were young then and in their prime. My opinion is Chelsea in 2012 is different, their players have grown old and those legs are not as quick as they were in 2009. On the other hand Barcelona has improved so much since then, they are really a formidable and different proposal now. Chelsea will try to defend deep with 9 players then try to hit on the counter but against Barcelona you can not defend and chase shadows for 90 minutes. Those old legs of Chelsea will tire and thats when Barcelona and Messi will start picking them up and scoring goals for fun. If Chelsea tries to press high up the pitch again I cant see them doing that for 90 minutes. My only concern is the referee may be under pressure tonight considering what happened 2009. Chelsea players will try to milk every tackle in the box or around it knowing that the referee is under pressure. Barcelona will play their usual football as we all know. Early goals may do them a big favour and rest some key players around 60-70 minutes mark considering that they have a Classico in the weekend.

  10. MATHEW DAVID says:

    No matter what happen chelsea cannot stop bercelona tonigt. My prediction is 1 – 3

  11. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    luck stopped everything for us tonight. Where the hell was Pique?? Injured???

  12. Comfi says:

    Chelsea played anti-football last night. Only one short on target that shocking. They robbed Barca of a win. That result was not fair at all. For Chelsea, they wont give a toss. A win is a win to them, it doesn’t matter how they won

  13. Comfi says:

    Barcelona played good football, good possession, but if I was to criticize, they didn’t move the ball quick enough. They had good chances but they didn’t take them, Fabregas missed a sitter and then his second chance, he didn’t put enough pace on the ball hence Ashley Cole cleared it on the line. Alexis Sanchez and Pedro were unlucky to hit the post. Didier Drobga’s goal could have been avoided, both Puyol and Mascheranno got drawn towards the run of Ramires hence leaving a lot of space for Drobga unmarked. Mascherano should have stayed with the run of Drogba.

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