While Barcelona has been a force to be reckoned with at the European stages for a long while, Chelsea’s history on them is a bit more recent. Nevertheless, there has been a growing rivalry between the two sides since their first meeting in the Champions League back in the 1999-2000 playoff stage of the competition, when Barcelona overcame a 3-1 loss to the Blues at Stamford Bridge with a 5-1 victory at the Camp Nou.
And yet again, both Barcelona and Chelsea are set to take the pitch for the world’s biggest club football tournament in the knockout phase for the second leg of the Champions League’s round of 16. In the first one, Chelsea played an almost perfect game and got a 1-0 lead but due to a single mental slip, saw Barça levelling the game 1-1 with Lionel Messi’s first career goal against the Blues and taking a favourable scoreline back to home.
Since then, Chelsea have taken two losses against their Manchester rivals, as well as a win over Crystal Palace last weekend. And in the meantime, Barcelona have only picked up in form with 3 wins and 1 draw in 4 La Liga games, including a 1-0 victory over 2nd place Atlético Madrid.
As such, the perceived gap between the two teams that is already present in the names of both squads is only widened when you take their respective forms into consideration. However it is never wise not to count Chelsea out of the contest, as captain Gary Cahill is more than glad to warn.
“Chelsea are being written off but it is the nature of the beast. If you’re looking at facts, this club has been very, very successful over the last 10 years, and since I have been here over the past six years.”
“You can have ups and downs. I can speak about myself and when I have been down I have bounced back. The same goes for the club.”
“Let’s go there with confidence we can put in a good show and do the best we possibly can to get through to the next round.”
“It’s poised nicely. We’ve got one game to try to go through against world-class opposition. We know it’s going to be tough but we’re ready for the challenge.”
When bringing up the most nostalgic memories of Chelsea’s recent past, many — if not most — fans will certainly hold in the highest regard our 2011-12 Champions League semifinals. In a similar setting to our current situation, a band of distrusted Chelsea players downed the Barcelona stars with a 1-0 win at home and a 2-2 draw away, despite having only 10 men on the pitch from minute 37 after a John Terry red card, and being down 2-1 in the first half of the game.
Cahill, who was part of the Chelsea squad that ended up lifting the Champions League trophy at the end of our title-winning run in Munich but was only involved in 12 minutes of the epic clash at Camp Nou, does not need to be reminded on that match. After all, he was part of those tremendous moments, and has already grown used to have himself and his teammates as underdogs. Gladly, they are more than glad to prove doubters wrong once again.
“No Chelsea fan needs reminding of that game. It was a one in a million. But it just shows what can happen when things go against you if you keep trying and keep working. We need to remember that.”
“It was like we had fallen to bits but we went on to win the Champions League and FA Cup in the same season.”
“So when I hear people talk about the players or the club now, it’s just noise to me. I have drawn on that story during the six years I have been here. There have been a lot of those moments where we have peaked and gone down, but we always come back again.”
-Gary Cahill; Source: London Evening Standard
This current iteration of Chelsea may not be as low as the one that got to win it all back in May 2012. Nevertheless, drawing inspiration from that group would bode well for a moment such as this return leg.
Come on, Chelsea! Do us proud!