Kick-off: Tuesday, 28 February 2009, 20:45 CET –Camp Nou, Barcelona
Barcelona’s Quest for Glory
This is a huge two week period for Barcelona. While all the focus in England has been on Manchester United’s pursuit of the quintuple, in Spain the talk has been all about Barcelona’s quest for a history-making treble voyage.
Barcelona faces four games that will make or break its season. Stumble at home in the first leg of the semi-final face-off with Chelsea and they can kiss their treble desires goodbye. And with Real Madrid coming up this Saturday, a trip to Stamford Bridge for the return clash next week, and a tricky meeting with Villarreal four days after that, Barcelona’s incredible season could turn very sour extremely quickly.
The big worry for Barcelona is that Pep Guardiola’s entertainers could be too preoccupied with this weekend’s El Clasico blockbuster with Madrid. Reportedly some in the Camp Nou dressing room still view the La Liga title as a more important trophy than the Champions League and they have put domestic success as their number one priority. And as massive as the encounter with Chelsea is, nothing trumps the titanic battle with their eternal enemies.
Chelsea’s Quest for Redemption
While Chelsea is in the FA Cup Final, it is Champions League glory that has become owner, Roman Abramovich’s personal Holy Grail over the past few years. While Chelsea quarter-final and semi-final draw could not have been any harder, Chelsea approaches the tie with Barcelona with confidence. And they have good reason to feel that way.
Chelsea has only lost once since Guus Hiddink took over in early February. He has not only restored the team spirit and unity but he has also got Didier Drogba back playing his best football of the season.
And after their stunning 3-1 win at Anfield against Liverpool in the first leg of the quarter-finals, Chelsea are full of belief that they can win anywhere. More importantly, Chelsea has started to keep clean sheets again. They have only conceded one goal in their last three games and that will give them confidence heading to Camp Nou.
Defender, Rafa Marquez is also back from suspension but Sergio Busquets, Dani Alves and Carles Puyol will all miss the second leg if they pick up another booking. Martin Caceres and Gabriel Milito are both out injured, but the good news is that Lionel Messi, who was suffering from stomach cramps this time last week, played the full 90 minutes against Valencia at the weekend without any problems.
Left-back Ashley Cole is suspended and Hiddink is expected to switch Jose Bosingwa to that flank to nullify Messi’s threat. But crucially, centre-back, John Terry is back after serving out his own one-game ban and his presence will be vital as Ricardo Carvalho looks certain to miss out due to a hamstring problem while Deco is also nursing a similar ailment.
This should be an exciting game as Hiddink has pledged to attack Barcelona at Camp Nou, similar to what they did at Liverpool. Chelsea fans would love that kind of score, but I expect that they would be happy with a scoring tie, or even a one goal loss.
For Barcelona then the goal needs to win while keeping a clean sheet. The Spaniards have insisted that they will not change their attacking style of play, but they need to be careful that Chelsea does not hit them on the counter attack.
Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea