All the facts, figures and opinions ahead of Barcelona vs Chelsea
The Nou Camp in Barcelona is the setting for what will be the defining game in the respective seasons of the two most consistent Champions League campaigners. For Barcelona, nothing less then victory will do for a team that saw its hopes of securing another La Liga title take a massive blow after losing the Clasico 2-1 at the weekend, their second defeat in a week after losing the first leg of this tie 1-0 in a fantastic backs to the wall performance from Chelsea.
With opposition fans and the media queuing up to have a swipe at Barcelona for two bad results (something that hasn't really been possible during their all conquering last couple of years) Barcelona find themselves in unfamiliar territory, territory that Pep Guardiola responded to in volatile fashion when his team selection and tactics for the Real Madrid clash were put under the spotlight, especially his decision to pick youngster Christian Tello in a such a high profile, pressurised match. He responded in fiery fashion, saying “Christian was the best player we had on the day. You can attack the veterans but not the young players. You attack Christian. Analyse but don’t criticise me. He played a f****** good game. Most of the dangerous chances were created by Tello.”
Much has already been made of the outburst but if there is one thing that we have all learned about Barcelona under Pep Guardiola, it is that they will stick to their principles and their way of playing, a way of playing that almost guarantees that they will score at some point over the duration of a two-legged affair, all of which bodes well for them and for the neutrals.
As For Chelsea, the dream of a league title faded long ago and whilst they have an FA Cup final to look forward to and are still in the mix to finish in the top four in the Premier League, it's an open secret that the Holy Grail for owner Roman Abramovich is this, the Champions League - the one trophy that has eluded the blues in what has been an expensive and fruitless chase for the biggest prize on offer. Of course to miss out on the top four would be a catastrophe, but the fact is they lie four points away from that particular goal with only four games left. For interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, it will be a far easier task to focus minds and galvanise the spirit needed to put in two more huge performances, this semi final and then a final, then to try and chase fourth spot - especially with a team that has a fair few players who are reaching the end of their careers at the top of the game. This really could be it for a number of these players, and what better last hurrah then to defeat the best team of this generation and then sign off with a Champions League title, before riding off into the sunset, leaving Chelsea to properly undertake the rebuilding process that is so desperately needed, possibly with Di Matteo at the helm if he can pull off what for many seemed like mission impossible.
As is customary for such a big occasion, everyone has an opinion and as usual Twitter has been a hot-bed of predictions, facts, opinions and banter ahead of the clash. In one of the funnier tweets, thatsagoal.com tweeted that PaddyPower were running a market on how many times Didier Drogba would be attended to by the physio during the match. In my match report from the first leg I wrote about how Drogba was at his infuriating best, and I was definitely including his histrionics and play-acting in that analysis. Drogba's ability to break up play, to disrupt the oppositions rhythm and of course be there to put the ball in the back of the net will all be key if Chelsea are to pull off a great victory.
Elsewhere, Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone expressed his excitement about the upcoming match - echoing the views of pretty much everyone - and then there were the stats, and this particular match-up certainly throws up some very intriguing one, the best of which are listed below:
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.
Barcelona are playing in their fifth consecutive Champions League semi-final, the longest run in the history of the competition (since 1992/93).
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).
Chelsea and Barcelona have met four times in knockout ties in the Champions League, with the Catalans progressing on three occasions.
Chelsea are the only team to have opened the scoring in each of their 11 Champions League games this season.
Barcelona have suffered four defeats against Chelsea in the Champions League, more than against any other side.
Some cracking stats in their I think you'll agree and certainly food for thought for those amongst us who will be having a cheeky bet on the outcome of tonight's match.
As an aside, the two respective managers actually faced each other in the same fixture as players twelve years ago in a Champions League Quarter Final clash. On that occasion Guardiola and Barcelona advanced, will history repeat itself?