Barcelona Vs. Chelsea: Team News & Preview

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 23: Manager of Chelsea FC Roberto di Mateo (L) and Petr Cech of Chelsea FC speak to the media during a press conference of Chelsea FC ahead of their UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg match against FC Barcelona at Camp Nou on April 23, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

And now we get to do it all over again. Chelsea travel to the Camp Nou on Tuesday, where they will be pitted against one of the scariest teams in football. If they don't lose, they are guaranteed a place in the Champions League final. The fact that we're in such a position is deeply weird, considering the season we've had so far, but hey, I'll take it.

In the buildup to last week's match I was doing my best not to get worked up. Barcelona are a really, really good team, and holding any hope of beating them is like getting excited about winning the lottery. It's not going to happen, and it can only result in disappointment. Then Chelsea went and beat them, so now I'm just confused. I want this win, and badly, but I don't really want to expect it, because, well, we're playing Barcelona. Ugh.

Date/Time: Tuesday, April 24th, 7:45 PM BST (2:45 PM EDT).

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain.

Television: Fox Soccer Channel (USA), Sky Sports 2 (UK).

Watch online: UEFA Match Centre (International).

Team News

Barcelona looked dead on their feet on Saturday after an exhausting 2-1 defeat at home against Real Madrid, but don't appear to have any fresh injury concerns. Argentine superstar Lionel Messi didn't train on Sunday thanks to 'gastric problems', but according to Pep Guardiola he's fit to play on Tuesday. Barcelona have a few long-term injury absentees, of course, including Eric Abidal and striker David Villa, who would probably both be starting if fit.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have Didier Drogba back in full training and available to play after an injury kept him out of the 0-0 away draw with Arsenal over the weekend, but they'll be without the services of David Luiz, who remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. The Blues also rested eight of the starters from their Wednesday match against Barcelona for Saturday, meaning that most of the expected starting lineup is relatively fresh.

Chelsea do have five players a booking away from suspension (of which four are available - Ramires, Raul Meireles, Ashley Cole and Branislav Ivanovic), but they're unlikely to worry much about that. Barcelona have Carles Puyol and Javier Mascherano on bookings.


Barcelona aren't in a good way right now. They've just seen their stranglehold on the La Liga title all but broken by Jose Mourinho and Real Madrid, a man and team that they despise, and the pressure for them to win the Champions League in response is immense. That could bring about a huge reaction from the hosts, or it could make them implode. Guardiola didn't make things sound great, although he remains confident of advancing:

[My team] may be tired in the mind but not tired in their legs, and they will try not to be tired in the mind.

Expectations are lower at Chelsea, and the Blues will be approaching this match as underdogs despite holding a 1-0 lead at what is essentially halftime. Beating Barcelona will have given the team's confidence a major boost, and although they weren't able to carry that over to Arsenal (presumably because Roberto di Matteo played what is a essentially a second-string team at the Emirates), you'd have to imagine that they're feeling pretty good right now.

Anyway, Barcelona are a wounded animal and we're going into their lair. There are two possible outcomes. Either we can poke them a few times and they can then bleed to death, or they'll turn around and bite our collective heads off. I have no idea how it'll go - I'm bracing myself for crushing disappointment while at the same time realising that if we do pull this off I will do a dance of impossible joy. For several days.

In terms of tactics I'd expect Roberto di Matteo to play a similar-looking squad to the one used at Stamford Bridge. They were effective enough, are rested and, presumably, they want to finish the job they've started. It wouldn't be a huge shock to see a lineup that's essentially unchanged from last Wednesday - it's Guardiola who'll have to come up with a response, not Chelsea.

Win or lose, our performance against Barcelona has been hugely encouraging. I'm proud of the team for making it this far... but I'll be prouder still if we can end our host's season. Deep breaths.

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