UEFA Champions League: Chelsea cling to narrow lead against Barcelona

Chelsea barca getty


By JOHN BOSCHINI

Considering the nature of their domestic season, Chelsea sealing a berth in the UEFA Champions League final at Barcelona's expense would be have to be considered the shock of the year. But here are the Blues, 90 minutes away from doing just that.

Chelsea’s gritty defending and opportunistic scoring, combined with a fair bit of luck, gives them a 1-0 lead over Barcelona heading back to the Camp Nou for the second leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal. Despite the lead, Barcelona still have to be considered strong favorites to advance considering their imperious form at home this season. However, a home defeat to Real Madrid on Saturday has ruined the aura of invincibility that normally surrounds the defending champions.

The task of playing four massive games in a row is beginning to take its toll on Chelsea. David Luiz is still out with injury while Didier Drogba is questionable for today's game. Barcelona are coming to the end of their own run of trying fixtures while the curious benching of Gerard Pique could speak to backroom turmoil. Lionel Messi will undoubtedly be Barcelona's focal point and will likely start despite missing training on Sunday due to illness.

Here is a look forward to today's massive Champions League clash:

TV: Fox Soccer Channel, 2:45 p.m. 

The First Leg: For 90 minutes on a rainy Wednesday night in London, Barcelona dominated every statistical category except for the important one. The Catalan club held 79 percent possession, hit the woodwork twice and spurned chance after chance while Chelsea struck with their only shot on goal of the game. Taking advantage of a Messi turnover, Lampard found Ramires with a long ball down the left flank. The Brazilian international's low cross was turned in from close range by Drogba.

Despite Barcelona's numerous chances, Chelsea did turn in one of their best defensive performances of the season. The Blues' back line blocked 10 of Barcelona's 24 shots while Petr Cech pulled off stellar saves on shots from Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas. 

The Lowdown: Barcelona are no strangers to needing a result at home in the Champions League. Last season, Arsenal pulled off an equally memorable home victory against Barcelona only to be stifled in the second leg, and AC Milan were defensively sound in this year's quarterfinals before conceding three goals at the Camp Nou.

It's unlikely Barcelona will be as wasteful in front of goal on Tuesday as they were last week. Messi has scored seven goals in the his last two Champions League games at home while Barcelona's defense has conceded only four times at Camp Nou all tournament. It's very unlikely Chelsea will be able to keep Barcelona for a full 90 minutes so an away goal is vital. If that were to happen, Barcelona will need to score three to advance.

Chelsea's offensive fortunes will likely depend on the fitness of Drogba. The Ivorian's physical presence and superior hold-up play could frustrate Barcelona and create a significant mismatch if 5-foot-9 Javier Mascherano starts in central defense. If Drogba is ruled out, Fernando Torres will need rediscover his form quickly. The Spanish international has shown an improvement in his finishing but is still struggling to beat defenders one on one, something he will need to do with limited service from a defensive Chelsea setup.

It's been more than nine years since Barcelona have lost three games in a row, but even a victory doesn't guarantee a place in the final. Expect Chelsea to defend deep like they did at Stamford Bridge but if Barcelona scores early, Chelsea might feel the need to venture forward.

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What do you think of today's game? Can Chelsea hold on for the unlikely upset or will Barcelona run rampant at home?

Share your thoughts below.

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19 Responses to UEFA Champions League: Chelsea cling to narrow lead against Barcelona

  1. BSU SC says:

    If Chelsea advances to the final over Barcelona, then I’ll eat my shoe.

  2. Mig22 says:

    ah, the taste of sweaty leather. Bring salt. :)

  3. ManicMessiah says:

    I’m very torn here. I’m no fan of Barcelona, but Chelsea winning the Champions League would be a setback for Newcastle.

  4. Mig22 says:

    Since RdM sat 8 starters on Saturday, I would hope Chelsea is fairly fresh.

    I can’t even imagine the pace and pressure an angry Barca are gonna bring in the first 15 minutes or so.

  5. Gnarls says:

    Torres scores today. You heard it here first.

  6. JJ says:

    Gonna be a great game, still think barca have it, but i would not be surprised if chelsea take it.

  7. andrew in tally says:

    Since we are writing for an American audience, can we once and for all stop referring to team as plural. Chelsea is singular. British writers use team as plural, but the events of 1776 dictate that we don’t follow their lead. I love this blog but some things just drive me crazy. If we want to use plural- then use Blues or players etc. that’s plural.

  8. Sean says:

    Andrew, get over yourself. Like Gnarls I think that Torres will have a big game today He may not score but I think maybe an assist.

  9. bryan says:

    where is this 79% stat coming from? UEFA.com has 72%.

  10. ben in el cajon says:

    4-1 Barcelona. Much diving, and whining.

  11. rondo says:

    Chelsea is still going to be angry after being eliminated in controversial fashion in ’09. I say they finish their revenge tonight.

  12. busquets dives says:

    Real Madrid have shown that Barcelona can be beaten at home. The blood is in the water. Let’s see the sharks finish off the arrogant Catalans.

  13. Vic says:

    It will be very tough for Chelsea. Last four times Barca was in trouble in the Champions League (Chelsea 09, Arsenal 2011, Madrid 2011, Milan 2012) Barca got a favorable call that changed the outcome of the game.

  14. CroCajun says:

    I 100% agree…with sean.

  15. Texas Boy says:

    anybody have a link?

  16. ManicMessiah says:

    Here’s an article from opta about possession stats.

    link to optasports.com

    Probably the difference between using a clock measurement vs pass volume to measure it.

  17. Mig22 says:

    I hear sea salt has less sodium. ;)

  18. Gnarls says:

    Just came back to claim my moral victory.