Tuesday night in front of 90,000 fans, Chelsea will have their chance at silencing their critics and earning a place in the Champions League at the Allianz Areana in Munich, Germany.
The Blues will feel that this is destiny, having been hard done by Tom Henning Ovrebo’s poor refereeing display at Stamford Bridge in 2009. Just like then, Chelsea have done their job in the first leg and must do the same in the second. The difference between now and then is that the second leg will be played at the Camp Nou.
This time, the Blues got the vital home goal while keeping Barcelona from scoring an away goal, meaning that the sit in the driver’s seat heading into Tuesday’s meeting.
That’s not to say that this will be an easy task, as the Catalan’s will be expecting their team to attack from the start, putting Chelsea on the back foot. However, should the Londoners score a goal, it forces Barcelona to need 3 to advance, which on current form might be an ask.
The clear danger man for Barcelona is Lionel Messi. With his 63 goals, Messi has accounted for 42% of his sides 150 goals this season. That’s a key stat as Messi has never scored against Chelsea, and Barcelona have become increasingly reliant on his goals. Messi also trained today amidst fears that he had picked up a knock after tweaking his groin in the first leg and having had to face Real Madrid on Saturday.
Roberto Di Matteo was able to make life easier for himself on Saturday, making eight changes to his lineup against Arsenal while gaining a point. He also will welcome back the return of Branislav Ivanovic from his suspension from English competions, while Didier Drogba trained well today, but still remains a fitness concern. Aside from those two, the only remaining injury remains David Luiz’ hamstring, meaning that Gary Cahill will once again partner John Terry in central defence.
Barcelona appear to have escaped El Clasico with no injuries, except to their pride, and it will be a challenge for Pep Guardiola to pick his side up. Having competed in the Club World Championship with a smaller squad, his side have appeared sluggish as of late, and it will be a key element to the match to see if they can regain sharpness in just three days.
Chelsea will be looking to keep that from happening and will also be buoyed by Real Madrid’s ability to cause them problems every time they counter attacked on Saturday.
This is a massive fixture as Chelsea are seeing their chances at 4th place in the Premier League looking further and further away. Winning the Champions League should be enough to get them in the next year’s competition, and might be the easier way to do so, if one can believe that.
One last stat: Pep Guardiola has never beaten Chelsea in the three times they’ve met. 2 draws and 1 loss. Let’s see if that continues tomorrow night.