Tonight we stroll into our holiday home for the first leg of the Champions League Semi Final, our fifth visit to the Nou Camp in nine years. Results against the Catalan giants in the CL have got progressively better, having lost the first two encounters and drawing the second two, then true to form tonight and next seasons clash should be wins, simple. Hiddink has already beaten Barcelona twice this season, albeit behind closed doors, in his mind.
As everyone should be aware by now, we’re without the suspended Ashley Cole, with all reports and Hiddink himself suggesting that Bosingwa will take the vacated position to try and stop this seasons Champions League top goalscorer, Leo Messi. Another crucial absentee is the injured Riccy Carvalho, with Alex likely to step in.
Hiddink has suggested that we will come out attacking tonight, which is what can also be expected of Barca. There were ten bookings the last time the sides met and meetings under Mourinho and Rijkaard were always heated affairs, it will be interesting to see what happens tonight.
The midfield presents a host of options, should Mikel play as the holding midfielder, or should Essien, who prefers to attack, get the nod ahead of him. Lampard is the only certainty in the centre of our midfield, I’d guess Ballack and Essien will be joining him, with Mikel and Deco on the bench. Will Belletti feature in midfield for us, maybe coming off the bench, without Cole and Carvalho is may be best to save him for the back four should something go wrong there.
Another position to be addressed is the wings, does Anelka play ahead of Saturday’s match-winner Kalou, or will the Frenchman, who is on a booking, start off on the bench.
It would be hard not to start with Drogba up front, having scored in our last five Champions League matches and scoring at the Nou Camp last time out.
Deco, Belletti and Quaresma have all previously played for Barcelona, with Eidur Gudjohnsen (Who scored against us in the 2-2 draw) Barca’s only ex Chelsea man.
The Catalan giants are beating us 5-4 on matches won against each other, with the other two matches being draws. They are also this seasons Champions League highest scorers with 29 goals, averaging almost three goals a match. In all competitions, their frontline of Messi, Henry and Eto’o have 90 goals between them, with Messi scoring 34 of them.
Anelka is on a booking for us, and Puyol (CB), Alves (RB) and Busquets (DM) are for them.
The Nou Camp’s last meeting between us was two and a half years ago, a memorable 2-2 draw which saw a world class goal from Lampard, and an injury time equaliser from Drogba. Gudjohnsen and Deco scored the goals for Barcelona. Ten yellow cards were given out that night.
Chelsea fans will be up in the heavens again for tonights match, where it is very hard for the players to hear the support from the fans, last time, and the only time in the three visits I have made there, enough noise was finally made for a player to hear and clap us, Frank Lampard, who was ready to take the corner with Valdes receiving treatment on the floor.
Likely Chelsea team:
Cech, Bosingwa, Terry ©, Alex, Ivanovic, Essien, Lampard, Ballack, Anelka, Malouda, Drogba
Subs: Hilario, Mancienne, Belletti, Mikel, Deco, Kalou, Di Santo