Did you know that Chelsea beat FC Barcelona yesterday? Chelsea beat FC Barcelona yesterday! I was in the middle of writing 'If you're not still celebrating, there's something wrong with you', but that seemed way too presumptuous, so the amended version will have to be 'if you're not still celebrating, you are a different, though equally special, person to be because I'm sure still celebrating' which doesn't really have the same ring. Ah well.
Anyway, Chelsea beat Barcelona by a score of 1-0, the third time the Catalans have been defeated all season (the other two were away losses to Getafe and Osasuna) and the third time they've taken a loss in the Champions League knockout stages since they turned into a Lionel Messi-powered super-team. The other two, of course, were Inter Milan's 3-1 win against them at the San Siro in 2010 and Arsenal's come from behind 2-1 triumph at the Emirates last season. Until yesterday, Pep Guardiola's Barcelona had never lost a knockout game without at least scoring an away goal. We're in uncharted territory here, folks.
Let's ignore the psychological boost of beating our European arch-nemesis and focus on the facts: What does a 1-0 home win mean? According to Miguel Delaney*, a 1-0 home win in the first leg means a 64% chance of advancing, which is great (2-1, which Bayern Munich managed against Real Madrid, is a coin flip). Obviously, Chelsea aren't as good as Barcelona, which rather reduces that advantage, but this is still a phenomenal result, somewhere between Inter's win and Arsenal's. Pep Guardiola's statement that Chelsea are now favourites is probably incorrect, but this tie is looking far more favourable now than it did 24 hours ago.
*I say 'according to the person who looked it up' when I really mean 'according to the history of football'.
If you're not overly familiar with the away goals rule, then the difference between a 1-0 win and a 2-1 win might seem a little bit strange, so here's an explanation - in UEFA competition, if the aggregate score is equal between two clubs, the team to have scored more goals on the road is the winner. Chelsea have prevented Barcelona from earning any, and they still have the potential for some, and so the tiebreaker is firmly in our favour. They just have to make sure they don't lose by more than one goal, and they're through. That's a difficult ask, considering that Barcelona have only failed to win at home by more than one goal three times this year(!), but it's better than most alternatives.
If Chelsea can score at the Camp Nou (probably via set piece), they have a better than even chance at making it to the final. Barcelona's pitch dimensions aren't that much better than Chelsea's and their wing-play, even if they do deploy the likes of Cristian Tello and Isaac Cuenca, won't matter for much if they don't have anyone able to convert crosses, so I would expect a similarly tough defensive performance from the Blues next week. Whether it works or not is an open question, but we've got a real chance now.
Let's take it.