Chelsea look to end the heartbreak of facing Barcelona in the 2009 semi-finals by holding onto their fiercely-contested 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge last week. The Blues are in good form with only one defeat since Roberto di Matteo took charge as interim manager in February and have confidence that they can defeat the Catalan giants.
Di Matteo’s side earned a valuable point in their race for the top four away at the Emirates Stadium and defender Gary Cahill spoke of his delight at keeping successive clean sheets against Barcelona and Arsenal. The core of the Blues defence will once again be Cahill and captain John Terry, as David Luiz is still struggling with a hamstring injury. Di Matteo rested eight players against Arsenal, including Didier Drogba who scored the solitary goal of the game in the semi-final first leg.
The Ivorian is still in contract dispute with the Blues and returns tonight looking to fire Chelsea into the Champions League final against their toughest of opponents. Fernando Torres will be dropped to the bench, as Di Matteo looks to maintain the counter-attacking pressure of the first leg and complete a famous semi-final success.
Barcelona’s build-up to the game has been focused on continuing performances that will lead to wins, which have eluded them in previous weeks. Defeat at Stamford Bridge was followed by losing El Clasico in the Nou Camp to Real Madrid. Pep Guardiola came under criticism for his decision to choose young winger Cristian Tello, but the Spaniard was defiant in his press conference and could use the 20 year old again on the wide left.
Gerard Pique has been frozen out of the squad as of late, not featuring since straining his left thigh against AC Milan in the quarter-finals, but could return at the heart of the Spanish champions’ defence. Guardiola insisted there was no problem with the Spanish international at the press conference, which they were side-by-side to address the media. Alexis Sanchez could also be recalled after his bright second-half substitute performance against Madrid. Star striker Lionel Messi is available for selection, despite missing Monday training with a gastric problem.
Chelsea face the most mountainous of tasks to go to the Nou Camp and stop Barcelona running rampant. If the Blues manage to score an away goal, they would make Barca require three for victory, so there is plenty of optimism amongst Chelsea fans. Barca’s defence has looked shaky in recent weeks, especially in the unconvincing new 3-4-3 system Guardiola has deployed, but their attacking potential is outstanding and should win on the night, breaking blue hearts both in the Nou Camp and across West London.
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