Chelsea unfazed by Barcelona victory
LONDON: Barcelona's stunning 6-2 victory at Real Madrid underlined why many people are saying Pep Guardiola's team is the best in the world.
Whether it scared Champions League opponent Chelsea is another matter.
Guus Hiddink and his players already knew of Barcelona's goalscoring talents before the Spanish league leader made it to 100 league goals for the season on Saturday and were well aware of a triple strikeforce of Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry which has now contributed had combined 69.
They knew that before Chelsea went to the Camp Nou and restricted Barca to a 0-0 draw in last week's first leg and are quite satisfied they can do the same when they meet at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
More important to Chelsea than Barcelona's impressive victory in Madrid on Saturday is the fact that the Blues were so close to winning the title for the first time a year ago, losing only in a penalty shootout to Manchester United in Moscow after a 1-1 draw.
"We did make it to the final and it was a shame to lose," said French winger Florent Malouda. "We are all determined now to get to Rome and win the trophy because we have come close before. This now means that our desire is even stronger than it has ever been. The Champions League is a very important competition for any player." A 1-0 victory will put Chelsea into the final for the second year in a row to face either defending champion Man United or Arsenal.
United leads the Gunners 1-0 from the first leg and goes to the Emirates Stadium in the other semifinal on Tuesday.
Coincidentally, Barcelona is the only non-English team in the semifinal for the second season in a row and will be out to stop another final between two Premier League teams.
"It's a lot better to go to Chelsea with a victory at the Bernabeu, but it's a different competition and it's going to be a lot different game," said Henry, who made the 2006 final with Arsenal only to lose to Barcelona. "We see how Chelsea is playing, it's not the same way to play either. So we'll have to have another incredible match.
"We still haven't done anything. We still have to win more games. We have to be careful and see what we can do." Barca goes to Stamford Bridge with several defensive problems.
Centerbacks Rafael Marquez and Gabriel Milito are both missing because of knee injuries while Carles Puyol is suspended and young Uruguayan defender Martin Caceres is likely to get a start against Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, who both scored in Saturday's 3-1 Premier League victory over Fulham.
Man United and Arsenal also won impressively on Saturday.
United's 2-0 victory at Middlesbrough kept it three points ahead in the title race with a game in hand while Arsenal triumphed 3-0 at Portsmouth to guarantee finishing at least fourth, which means another shot at next season's Champions League.
United manager Alex Ferguson, who has amassed 24 titles in his 23 years at Old Trafford, rested eight of his regular players against Boro, including top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.
"The midfield worked so hard against Arsenal on Wednesday, I wanted to rest them all," he said. "They have had a good rest and will be fresh for Tuesday, if I decide to play them all." Ronaldo is certain to be back against the Gunners and Ferguson has to decide which of his three strikers, Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney or Carlos Tevez, to leave on the bench.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is unable to field his most recent signing, Andrey Arshavin, because the Russian forward played earlier in the competition for Zenit St. Petersburg. Robin van Persie is sidelined through injury.
Although his team was outplayed by United in the first leg, it only conceded one goal and now has home advantage. He says his players are out to make it tough for United at the Emirates Stadium.
"I believe the semifinal away from home is the most difficult game in the Champions League competition because you are 90 minutes away from the final," he said. That is what we have to produce on Tuesday night, the game worthy of a semifinal. We have to make it hard for them."