Barcelona meet Chelsea in Champions League

Updated: 28 April 2009 17:46 IST

Barcelona's bid to cap a spectacular season with three trophies gets a big test when the Spanish league leaders face Chelsea in Champions League semis.


Barcelona's bid to cap a spectacular season with three trophies gets a big test on Tuesday when the Spanish league leaders face familiar foe Chelsea in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals.

The match at the Camp Nou is the first of three games likely define Barcelona's season, which has seen the team's high-powered offense, led by Lionel Messi, score a remarkable 136 goals in 51 games.

Only days after hosting Chelsea, Barcelona faces rival Real Madrid in the Spanish league on Saturday. And next Wednesday, the team visits Stamford Bridge in London for a chance to reach the Champions League final on May 27 in Rome.

"We're motivated. We want to win these titles," Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez said on Monday. "We're conscious that we haven't won anything yet, but it's all in our hands."

If they win both titles, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola could make it a treble for his team in the Copa del Rey final.

Barcelona and Chelsea have met in the knockout stage of the Champions League three times since 2000, with Barcelona winning twice. Many of the players from those matches, some of them acrimonious, remain, including Messi, who has scored 34 goals in all competitions this season.

And with defender Ashley Cole suspended, Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink is likely to call on Jose Bosingwa _ recently back from a five-week layoff _ to keep the dynamic Argentina winger in check.

Chelsea will also be without injured center back Ricardo Carvalho, so Branislav Ivanovic or former Barcelona player Juliano Belletti could also be deployed to cover Messi.

"(Bosingwa) started the last week and we don't have many options," Hiddink said. "But I feel confident he can do it tomorrow evening."

Barcelona is the last non-English team remaining in Europe's top club competition, with Arsenal facing Manchester United in the other semifinal series. Man United knocked Barcelona out of the competition at the semifinal stage last season.

Guardiola, a key member of the "Dream Team" which won four straight league titles and Barcelona's first European Cup in 1992, has led the club's revival since replacing Frank Rijkaard, who coached the team to the league-Champions League double in 2006.

"We're playing a great team tomorrow and I think we should be proud," Guardiola said. "I'm going to go out there and enjoy it."

With Xavi and Andres Iniesta creating out of the midfield, Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry have combined for 87 of the team's goals to lead the back-to-back home wins over French champion Lyon and German champion Bayern Munich that allowed it to reach the semifinals.

Barcelona beat Bayern 4-0 in the first leg.

"They not only destroyed Bayern ... they surprised them a lot in the first half," said Hiddink, who has only two victories in eight previous matches against Barcelona. "We've studied that and we know we have to start extremely concentrated so the same doesn't happen to us."

Chelsea, which lost last year's final to Man United on penalties, got past Juventus and Liverpool to reach the semifinals for the third straight year.

"Chelsea is a very strong team in aerial play, we saw that against Liverpool," Guardiola said. "If we have to wait for the second leg to take it, it's not going to work."

The Blues will be without the injured Deco, who will miss a return to the Camp Nou since his offseason move to London. Deco, alongside Ronaldinho, helped Barcelona win the Champions League title three years ago.

"It's normal to be impressed by what they've done in the Champions League but we've also shown some things," Chelsea winger Florent Malouda said. "Now it's our chance to measure ourselves up against them."

Topics : Football Bayern Munchen
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