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Michael Taylor 28th Apr 2009 - 8:43

Things could get Messi for Chelsea

Visiting the Nou Camp as an away team is generally never a pleasant experience but, if Lionel Messi hits his brilliant best on Tuesday night, then Chelsea could be heading towards a battering in Barcelona.

The Blues travel to Spain for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie knowing the Catalan giants have the potential to destroy any opposition on any given day as they proved by hammering Bayern Munich in the last round.

The free-flowing, attacking style of play with which Barca have become associated is not only better than ever, it is also more consistent than ever with no fewer than fifteen games this season having seen Barcelona score four or more goals.

If one person is to thank it has to be rookie manager Pep Guardiola, who has transformed the club's fortunes dramatically since taking over in the summer, turning the underachiever into domestic and European monsters.

His radical overhaul has enabled Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry to flourish, Andres Iniesta and Xavi to dominate while Messi has been handed a free role in which he terrorises opposing defences on a weekly basis.

It's all in stark contrast to the Frank Rijkaard led team which failed to register a single goal over two legs against Manchester United in last year's Champions League semi-final exit and also finished a distant third to Real Madrid and Villarreal in La Liga.

Messi, Eto'o and Henry alone have contributed an incredible 90 goals in all competitions already and you have to fancy at least one of the three adding to that tally against Chelsea.

All three are 5/1 shots to notch the first of the game and 5/4 to score anytime and it would come as no surprise if at least two of them were celebrating at some stage in the match.

John Terry and whoever Guus Hiddink chooses to play alongside him are undeniably going to have to be at their very best and even if they are, it may still not be enough.

The four goals conceded recently against Liverpool and the three against Bolton is a worrying aspect for Blues fans and backers alike, especially since Petr Cech is going through a rare sloppy patch in goal.

There are a few positives for the West Londoners though including Michael Essien's excellent form but the real highlight is the return to form of Didier Drogba.

The Ivorian is back to his best and could do some terrorising of his own against a still shaky Barca backline. He is a great 11/4 shot to score anytime, and the best thing is, he is the type of player that can score anytime and from any situation.

However, I just cannot see how Chelsea will be able to match Barcelona for the whole 90 minutes.

Many people have commented that the Catalans are yet to face any team of note (i.e. a Premier League side) and while that does carry weight, so does the notion that Barca are simply in a league of their own.

If I was Hiddink I would be more than happy to leave Spain's second city with just a one goal deficit and I think that has to be the aim for the master tactician - keep it tight.

If the plan succeeds then 15/2 about a 2-1 home win could be good value however, I personally think the 14/1 about Barcelona winning 3-1 will be a better bet though.

And it goes without saying that in terms of match betting I would only be punting on the 4/6 about a home win but then again, stranger things have happened.

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