Chelsea v Barcelona - tale of the tape
Chelsea v Barcelona - 19:45 - live on ITV 1
Two of European football's top heavyweights of recent times clash at Stamford Bridge in an encounter of such magnitude that the glittering, lavish casinos of Las Vegas or the historic Madison Square Garden would seem far more appropriate venues for this clash, rather than a football pitch in west London.
Here is the tale of the tape.
In the blue corner are Chelsea. An aging slugger thats has come oh so close to true greatness in the past and is straining every sinew and flexing every muscle in order to reach its goal. Although this Chelsea team may not contain the pace or attacking prowess of previous versions, they still can, when necessary, deliver a devastating knockout blow.
Victories against the foreign pretenders Napoli and Benfica have set up this shot against the holders of the Champions League crown, Barca.
Waiting confidently and assuredly in the 'Blaugrana' corner are Barcelona. A fighter at the top of his game, oozing skill, technique, flair and ruthless efficiency, Barca are the standard bearers for footballing brilliance in the 21st century, leaving their contemporaries trailing behind.
The men from the Nou Camp have eased their way through to the semi-finals seeing off Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan.
Th latest rendition of this rivalry will be the sixth time the two teams have been drawn against each other and although players from both teams have come and gone, there are plenty remaining with inside knowledge or old scores to settle. The Catalans have edged the two-legged affairs, progessing through on three occasions, compared to Chelsea just the once. It must be said though that the teams are level on wins in this period, both acquiring three victories while four matches have been drawn. This shows that unlike many in Europe, Chelsea can handle Barca and that although they are undoubtedly the underdogs at the Bridge, they must believe they can get something from the game.
|Year and Round||First Leg||Second Leg|
|2008-09 - semi-final||Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea
||Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (Barcelona win on away goals)
|2006-07 - group stage||Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona
||Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea|
|2005-06 - last 16||Chelsea 1-2 Barcelona
||Barcelona 1-1 Chelsea (Barcelona win 3-2 on aggregate)
|2004-05 - last 16||Barcelona 2-1 Chelsea
||Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona (Chelsea win 5-4 on aggregate)
|1999-2000 - quarter-final||Chelsea 3-1 Barcelona
||Barcelona 5-1 Chelsea (Barcelona win 6-4 on aggregate)
The match betting for this Champions League semi-final sees the reigning champions installed as 3/4 favourites while Chelsea can be backed at 4/1.
Although I would never freely recommend backing the draw in a match of such importance, it should definitely be considered here. In 2009, both legs of the semi-final between the teams ended in stalemate. In the Nou Camp, a dogged and resolute Chelsea performance earned themselves a 0-0 draw (11/1) while the return leg finished 1-1 (7/1) a scoreline cruel to the English team, but enough to send Barca through on away goals. The draw itself is priced at 5/2.
Chelsea will be without defender David Luiz for this first leg after injuring his hamstring during the FA Cup win over Tottenham at the weekend and has been ruled out for a fortnight. Gary Cahill could start in his place while Branislav Ivanovic is available.
Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has been out with a thigh strain but is back in contention, while David Villa and Eric Abidal remain sidelined.
The William Hill Match Winner for this game is for Chelsea to win to nil. Although the concept may seem tough given Barcelona's attacking prowess, John Terry will want to prove to the world that he is no longer a spent force and can shackle the likes of Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Andres Inniesta. Enhanced from 13/2, the Match Winner price is a big 8/1.
That man Iniesta, scorer of the goal that broke Chelsea's heart three years ago, can be backed at 11/1 to score the last goal of the game once again or 4/1 to notch anytime. Lionel Messi, Barcelona's leading goalscorer and top scorer in this season's Champions League campaign is rightly being hailed as one of the best players of all time, and some are starting to label him the best ever. The Argentine striker has a good goalscoring record against English teams but not a great one (Arsenal aside!). He tends to grab a goal (11/4 first goal 8/13 anytime) but usually the hype surrounding him allows one of his team mates to step out of his shadow and find the net, see Pedro in last season's final v Man United.
For Chelsea, the conundrum as to who starts upfront is still yet to be solved. Fernando Torres (9/1 first goal, 10/3 anytime) has improved over the last few weeks and is slowly starting to show his quality. He also has the bonus of boasting a terrific goalscoring record against Barca from his Atletico days. However, Didier Drogba (9/1 first goal, 10/3 anytime) was superb when leading the line and scoring against Tottenham in Sunday's FA Cup semi-final win. The Ivorian looked lke the Drogba of old, powerful, direct and full of running. It will be a tough one for Roberto Di Matteo to decide between these two, but I think the Drog will just edge it.
My prediction for this match is as follows:
Barcelona to win 2-1 @ 7/1
Barcelona to come from behind and win @ 7/1