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UEFA Champions League: Chelsea eye revenge, upset against Barcelona

Iniesta reuters


For Chelsea, it's all about revenge when Barcelona arrives at Stamford Bridge for the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal tie on Wednesday.

Much of the game's build-up has focused on the last time these two teams met, when Andres Iniesta scored a last-gasp equalizer to send Barcelona to the 2009 final on away goals. Chelsea fans were irate with what they saw as a poor performance by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, who turned down four Chelsea penalty shouts in the game. Barcelona went on to easily beat Manchester United in the Champions League final.

In three years since then, much has changed, as Barcelona are the clear favorites over the two legs. Lionel Messi has scored 165 goals for the Catalan club since last playing at Stamford Bridge, while the additions of players like Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez have given Barcelona seemingly unending depth at each position. The opposite has happened at Chelsea, as veterans like Nicolas Anelka, Alex, and Michael Ballack have left the club while the remaining veterans are on the wrong side of 30. The lack of youth development has forced Chelsea to spend outrageous transfer fees on signings Fernando Torres only to see inconsistent returns.

That isn't to say Chelsea aren't capable of pulling off a shocker, at least in the first leg. Robert Di Matteo has revitalized this Chelsea side to a degree and the Blues are riding a seven-game unbeaten run. Barcelona have also been far from convincing on the road this season with losses to Getafe and Osasuna in La Liga.

Here is a look ahead to today's Champions League semifinal:

TV: FX (NOT Fox Soccer Channel), 2 p.m. (Replay on FSC, 5 p.m.)

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Barcelona had a relatively easy path to the semifinals except for their repeated clashes with AC Milan. After a win and a draw over the Italian club in the group stages, the two teams met again in the quarterfinals. AC Milan held out for a scoreless draw at the San Siro and briefly held an advantage the when they tied the second leg at 1-1, but a penalty from Messi and an insurance goal from Iniesta booked Barcelona's spot in the semifinals.

Chelsea have done just enough to continue in the Champions League this season. A final-day win over Valencia saw them top Group E thanks to Bayer Leverkusen's collapse against Genk. Chelsea looked to be on their way out with a 3-1 defeat to Napoli in the first leg of the Round of 16, but a memorable comeback at home saw was enough to advance to the quarterfinals, where Chelsea narrowly defeated Benfica.

THE LOWDOWN: Barcelona are massive favorites in this game and rightfully so. They have scored 34 times in Europe this season while winning by four or more goals four times. However, with Barcelona's shaky away form and Chelsea's resurgence, don't expect anything to be settled tonight. The defending champions will still be in a favorable position with a scored draw or even a one-goal deficit heading back to Camp Nou.

Chelsea will be without David Luiz after the central defender picked up a leg injury against Tottenham on Sunday, but Branislov Ivanovic is eligible to step in. Fernando Torres has scored seven goals in 10 games when facing Barcelona, but all of them came before 2006, so Didier Drogba may get the start following his performance over the weekend. Barcelona will hope to exploit the wings, as fullback as been a trouble spot for the English side all season. If Chelsea commit too many men forward, Barcelona will be deadly on the counter-attack.


What do you think of today's game? Does Chelsea have a chance? Can Barcelona put the tie to bed before returning home? Which player will make the biggest impact?

Share your thoughts below. 


  1. I did not say anything about Pepe/Alves situation. Pepe had one of his reckless lunges and Alves took full advantage by pretending to be hurt. But simply because Alves may have dumped the ref into thinking that he was injured does not mean that refs are trying to help Barca. And as for Pepe, he could have been thrown out for earlier tackles, where he did make contact. As for the card to Van Persie, I agree that many refs would not have given it as a second yellow card, but I have seen a number of times refs giving a yellow for a shot after the whistle. I agree that it was a bad decision (although the ref technically followed the rules), but it was not the reason why Arsenal lost the game.

  2. Maybe the ref had the right to give a yellow card to Van Persie, but it doesn’t happen 99% of the time. Why do it in such an important game in such an important juncture. As far as the Pepe card, he didn’t touch Alves. Alves faked the injury.

  3. Blasphemy! Barca losing stains the entire game of soccer. They are the model to which all teams should aspire. You should turn in your fan card if you don’t appreciate their mastery of how the game should be played.

    …sorry, just repeating what professor Xavi told me.

  4. I agree with you that they are not as dynamic as in the past. One thing that I noticed this season is that they don’t press as much as they used to. There are a lot of tired legs out there after all the competitions they played. Plus, some players like Villa and Pedro either are or were out due to injuries. As for lossing Messi, yes, there is no player that can replace him. He’s been the best player in the world for the last three years and those are hard to replace.

  5. I certainly understand that there are other players that can hurt you but I guess it seems to me that they are not as dynamic as years past. If Messi were to ever actually get injured how well would they do? Who is going to pick up that role as the main scorer Sanchez, Pedro?

  6. The officiating in the Chelsea/Barca’s semifinal was bad, but it was bad for both sides. In the first leg, several Chelsea players should have been sent off for cynical fouls on Barca’s players, but they were not. On the return leg, there were bad non-calls for penalties, but Chelsea’s fans conveniently forget that prior to these noncalls, the ref sent off Abidal after a rather inoccuous collision with Anelka (that did not even merit a yellow, let alone red) and Chelsea was given the advantage of playing with an extra man, but could not score after Essen’s stunning volley in the first half. The ref was really bad, but not biased. As for Van Persie’s card, you forget that he was shown his second yellow after taking a shot after a whistle, an act for which a yellow card can be given under the rules. The ref could have exercised his discretion not to give out a second yellow, but technically he had every right to give the yellow card. More importantly, it is naive to suggest that Barcelona needed help from the refs in that game. Barcelona thoroughly dominated that game even prior to the ejection on the 56th minute. Van Persie’s shot after the whistle was the only shot that Arsenal managed in the whole match, the majority of which they played at full strength. I don’t recall the total number of Barca’s shots, but I think it was more somewhere between 20-30. Barca does get more calls go their way, but that’s normal considering that they control the ball around 75% of the time and they opponents have to defend more than attack.

  7. Once again.

    3 years ago, Barcelona has a penalty denied, a goal disallowed, and Inter was given an offside goal.

    This year, two penalties not given to Barcelona in Milan.

    And Pepe was ejected for a reckless tackle. Regardless of contact, as the official said in the post game, it was still a red card.

  8. I think that you underestimate Barca’s firepower. While it is true that Messi’s goalscoring is off the charts (and other than Christiano Ronaldo nobody is even close), there are other players on Barca that can score. Xavi and Alexis have 10 goals in La Liga and Fabergas has 9, which is roughly on par with Chelsea’s top scorers: Lamparad (11) and Sturridge (10) – no other Chelsea player has more than 6. And if you want to compare the scoring in the Champions league, Pedro has the same number of goals as Chelsea’s top scorer Drogba (4).

  9. On the one hand I strongly dislike Chelsea and I can’t see them winning this series, but on the other hand, I would absolutely love to see all the smug Barca players and fans lose. It’s kind of like the New England Patriots….

  10. Too bad the first leg is at Stamford Bridge, Gives Barcelona an advantage. Not sure why, but anytime Barcelona is threatened of losing in the Champions League, they get a favorable call. 2009 against Chelsea there was a clear handball in the last minute, had Chelsea been awarded they would have won. Last year against Arsenal, Van Persie being ejected for throwing the ball. Last year against Madrid, Pepe got ejected when Alves faked an injury. This year you had the bad call against Milan.

  11. I am surprised that Barca is still so dominant this year. Looking at their scoring it seems like they have turned into a one man team offensively. No one else is even close to Messi in scoring. Prior seasons all of the scoring didn’t all fall on his shoulders. there was always another player like Villa, Henry, etc. that was sharing the scoring load.

    It is easier said than done but i feel like if a team can figure a way to shadow Messi and shut him down Barca will have much harder time scoring as there isn’t anyone else on the team this year that is close to Messi. Where as in the past you had 2 or even 3 prolific scorers to shut down.

  12. Spain should retaliate against Argentina, for the expropriation of Spanish oil company’s development in Argentina, by nationalizing Messi.


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