UEFA Champions League 2012: Barcelona v Chelsea Preview

By IndepthAfrica
In Soccer
Apr 24th, 2012
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Chelsea through to 2012 UEFA Champions League Final. 3-2 agg

 

Goals from Ramires and Fernando Torres helped Chelsea win through to the Champions League final 3-2 on aggregate after drawing 2-2 at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night.

Ramires handed Chelsea a Champions League lifeline towards the end of the first half after a moment of madness from John Terry looked to have ended their hopes of making the final.

Barca peppered the west Londoners’ goal throughout the opening 45 minutes of Tuesday’s second leg and deservedly took the lead through Sergio Busquets, who tapped home from close range.

Things got worse for Chelsea less than two minutes later when Terry was sent off for inexplicably kneeing Alexis Sanchez from behind.

Barcelona surged further ahead through Andres Iniesta, although Ramires clawed a goal back in stoppage time with a deft chip.

The Nou Camp was rocking as the game got under way and the noise level went up a further notch inside three minutes.

After neat interplay between Alexis Sanchez and Lionel Messi, the former’s weighted ball put the Argentina international through on goal and he rifled a shot into the side-netting.

Chelsea were being penned back in their own half and forced to defend from the outset, resulting in Gary Cahill requiring treatment when over-extending in his attempts to thwart Sanchez.

Ashley Cole hacked an Andres Iniesta cross off the line as Barca continued to press and the visitors’ challenge was made all the more difficult when they were forced into a 13th-minute defensive reshuffle.

Cahill had to be replaced with a suspected hamstring injury and handed over to right-back Jose Bosingwa, whose introduction saw Branislav Ivanovic partner John Terry in central defence.

The hosts looked set to make an early change of their own shortly afterwards when Gerard Pique was involved in a horrific collision in his own penalty box.

Victor Valdes came storming off his line to punch the ball away under pressure from Drogba, but decked his own player in the process.

Pique was allowed to continue after being assessed by medical staff and would have been celebrating moments later was it not for last-ditch action.

Cesc Fabregas put Messi through on goal with an exquisite backheel, but Petr Cech saved superbly and Iniesta’s follow-up effort was blocked by Terry.

The Barca onslaught continued as they looked to level the tie, with Fabregas shooting inches wide and Javier Mascherano going close from range.

Chelsea were welcoming the hosts on and attempting to hit them on the counter-attack, with Drogba their main outlet.

Having blazed a shot over moments earlier, the Ivorian came close in the 25th minute when he shrugged off pressure from Pique to fire just wide of Valdes’ near post.

It was Pique’s last action of the night as Alves replaced the Spain international, who was feeling the effects of the earlier collision with his goalkeeper.

Iniesta fired across face of goal as Chelsea struggled to cope with Barca, who drew the first booking of the night as John Obi Mikel struggled to cope with Sanchez.

Barca were pressing in numbers and they got the lead they deserved in the 35th minute, with Sergio Busquets nonchalantly tapping home a squared ball from Cuenca.

Things got a whole lot worse for Chelsea less than two minutes later when Terry received a straight red card.

The Chelsea captain inexplicably chose to knee Sanchez from behind, leaving referee Cuneyt Cakir no choice but to send him off.

The dismissal left Chelsea looking lost defensively and they fell further behind as Andres Iniesta latched onto a Messi pass and prodded past Cech in the 43rd minute.

The match took another twist, though, in stoppage time as Ramires collected a Frank Lampard pass and expertly chipped the ball over Valdes.

The Brazil international’s goal may have put Chelsea on course for the final but he will not be there should they make it, having picked up a booking just before scoring.

Barca continued to press forward undeterred in the second half, with Iniesta seeing a shot blocked by Ivanovic two minutes after the restart.

The Catalan side’s pressure paid dividend shortly afterwards, with the officials awarding a penalty.

Drogba was adjudged to have brought down Fabregas in the box, but Messi could only smash the resulting spot-kick onto the crossbar.

Ivanovic’s remonstrations saw him booked in the build-up and meant he too would miss the Munich finale should Chelsea make it.

Iniesta soon followed him into the referee’s notebook, before Sanchez nodded Alves’ cross wide and Cech was booked for time-wasting.

The Czech Republic international continued to frustrate the home faithful and did so in style in the 62nd minute, pulling off a superb save to deny Cuenca.

Chelsea managed to deal with wave after wave of Barcelona attacks before Torres broke through late on after coming on as a substitute to make sure of the club’s passage into the final.


Chelsea's soccer team players attend a training session at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, April 23, 2012. FC Barcelona will play in a Champions League semifinal second leg against Chelsea upcoming Tuesday. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

All the facts and stats ahead of the Champions League semi-final second leg between Barcelona and Chelsea at Camp Nou, with Chelsea leading 1-0 from the first leg.

TEAM NEWS

Barcelona star Lionel Messi has been passed fit to face Chelsea. The forward, who has 63 goals in all competitions this season, was suffering from a gastric problem and missed training on Sunday. However, he will start at Camp Nou. Barcelona are only missing David Villa, who has broken his leg, and Eric Abidal, who has undergone a liver transplant. Cristian Tello could be dropped after an unconvincing performance in the defeat to Real Madrid at the weekend while Gerard Pique could be restored to the starting XI.

Didier Drogba travelled with Chelsea and the striker looks set to be fit for Tuesday night’s do-or-die clash after missing Saturday’s Premier League game at Arsenal with a knee injury. Defender David Luiz also travelled to Spain in what was a 25-man party, even though he is expected to miss the game with a hamstring injury. Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, Luiz, Ramires and Raul Meireles are all one booking away from an automatic one-game ban but this will not impact on Roberto Di Matteo’s team selection.

MANAGER QUOTES

Pep Guardiola: “We will have to have balance between rhythm, pace, patience and intensity. We need to think that we have 90 minutes ahead of us and that with patience and intensity we can make it. Tomorrow there’s no tiredness in the legs. Maybe in the mind. But in the semi-final of a Champions League, no matter if we play three days ago or yesterday – tomorrow we’ll be ready to try and reach the final.”

Roberto Di Matteo: “I do think we will have to try and score a goal. I think that will give us a greater chance because I think it’s going to be difficult just to play for a goalless draw. Barcelona will create chances against every team they play against, so we will have to try and score a goal for sure. We have to also try and limit the chances that they can create against us.”

MATCH FACTS

Barcelona are playing in their fifth consecutive Champions League semi-final, the longest run in the history of the competition (since 1992/93).

Chelsea and Barcelona have each reached the semi-final stage of the Champions League six times in the last nine seasons (since 2003/04), the best tallies over that period.

This will be the 12th meeting between Barcelona and Chelsea in the Champions League. Only Real Madrid and Bayern Munich have played against each other more times in this competition (13).

Chelsea are the only side who have faced Barca more than four times in the Champions League who can boast a positive head-to-head record against the Catalans (W4, D4, L3).

Barcelona have suffered four defeats against Chelsea in the Champions League, more than against any other side.

Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six Champions League games against Barcelona, four of which have been draws.

Over these last six meetings, only once has each side managed to score more than a single goal in a game (2-2 at the Camp Nou in October 2006)

Chelsea and Barcelona have met four times in knockout ties in the Champions League, with the Catalans progressing on three occasions.

Barcelona last beat Chelsea in February 2006 when the sides met in the last 16 of the Champions League. The Catalans won 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Pep Guardiola’s men have failed to score in two of their last three Champions League games, prior to that they had been on a run of 29 games without being shut out by their opponents.

On each of the three occasions that Barca lost the first leg of a Champions League semi-final, the Catalans have exited the competition.

In the first leg Barca had six times as many attempts on goal (24-4) and shots on target (6-1) as Chelsea, but still went on to lose the game 1-0.

Chelsea are the only team to have opened the scoring in each of their 11 Champions League games this season.

Barcelona have scored the joint-most goals in the Champions League this season: 33 in 11 games (on average three per game). That’s 11 more than Chelsea (22).

Barcelona have won the most penalties in the Champions League this season (5) with Chelsea winning the next most (3).

Chelsea only completed 158 passes in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, the only team that registered fewer successful passes in a Champions League game this term was APOEL Nicosia (124, in a 0-3 home defeat to Real Madrid in the quarter-finals).

Chelsea had only 20.9 per cent of possession in their 1-0 home win in the first leg and became the first team to win a Champions League game with a possession rate lower than 24 per cent since Opta’s detailed data collection began in 2003/04.

Lionel Messi is the first player to score 14 goals in a Champions League season.

Messi is third in the all-time Champions League top-scorers chart on 51 goals. Only Raul (71) and Ruud Van Nistelrooy (56) have been more prolific.

Chelsea are the team Lionel Messi has played the most against in the Champions League without scoring: seven games, zero goals.

Petr Cech (48) has had to make 39 more saves than Victor Valdes (9) in the Champions League this season.

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