Chelsea’s third game in a decisive and extremely tough week ended 0-0 against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, and although disappointed they couldn’t make ground on the top four, the players and staff can be extremely proud of their efforts after previously beating Spurs 5-1 and Barcelona 1-0 earlier on this week.
After that Barcelona victory, there was no doubt that minds were turned towards Tuesday’s huge encounter at the Nou Camp, as Di Matteo made eight changes from Wednesday night, Petr Cech and the all English central defensive pairing of Gary Cahill and John Terry, who continues to captain the side despite two broken ribs and breathing problems, were the only survivors. Bosingwa and youngster Bertrand, who impressed previously when deputising for Cole, made up the defence. The other starters consisted of Essien, Romeu on his first start for a few months, Malouda, Torres, Kalou and Sturridge.
A slow start to the game saw Chelsea slightly have the better of the opening stages, without creating much. At the other end, Cech made a comfortable save from Rosicky before Van Persie hit the post from a left-footed strike from close range. Chances for Chelsea included a couple of blocked efforts from Torres, Cahill hitting over the bar from an inswinging corner and Terry heading wide.
After the half hour age stage the game remained tense. Rosicky was the first player to be booked after a challenge on Essien. Cech made a save from Van Persie as Arsenal looked most likely to score at the end of the first half.
Into the second half no changes were made but Di Matteo must have been looking at the riches of options on his bench including Mata, Lampard and Meireles and wondering when to make his move, whilst juggling the priorities of this game and freshness for Tuesday. The second half started in much the same vain as the first, Malouda was booked on 48 minutes, van Persie on 49 and Cahill on 53 but there was little else to report. Van Persie still looked the most dangerous player on the pitch and Cech had to make yet another save from him just before the hour, before Walcott, who had a quiet game, went down with a suspected hamstring injury and was replaced by Gervinho. After this, Diaby replaced Rosicky for the hosts and Mikel replaced Romeu for the visitors.
Sturridge had a shot well saved by Szczesney, before Van Persie hit the bar at the other end in another let off for Chelsea. Wenger used his third and final substitution on 68 minutes with Santos coming on for Oxlade-Chamberlain. Essein blocked a Diaby shot, before Bosingwa was booked for unsporting behaviour. Mata replaced Kalou on 73 minutes with time running out for either team to get a precious winner. Diaby was then booked, before Arsenal old boy Cole came on to a chorus of expected boos for man of the match Ryan Bertrand. He was booked just four minutes after coming on.
Van Persie had another effort on goal, but missed to the right of the target, and Cech later made another save from him. Sturridge tried to hit the target from a long way out but it went bway wide. Four minutes was added on but neither side could create a meaningful chance in this time and a slightly dour game finished all square at 0-0, our first 0-0 against Arsenal since a home one at the end of the 04/05 season our first away one in other 30 years.
Later in the day, Barcelona lost at home to Real Madrid 2-1, helping to set up Tuesday’s mouth watering tie nicely.