Chelsea vs. Barcelona  1 - 0


Mascherano: Barca can still progress

19 April 2012 06:36

Javier Mascherano says Barcelona still control their Champions League destiny, despite losing 1-0 to Chelsea in the semi-final first leg.

Holders Barca dominated possession in the match at Stamford Bridge and created a succession of clear-cut chances.

But they were punished for their profligacy by Didier Drogba, who struck the winning goal moments before the half-time break.

Rather than feel sorry for themselves after losing a much that they could have won, Mascherano wants his team-mates to concentrate on recovering the deficit during the return fixture at Camp Nou on Tuesday.

"No regrets," Mascherano said.

"This is the result and now it just depends on us. It's in our hands.

"We have to try to win knowing that we cannot grant them any opportunities to score a goal.

"We have to keep our concentration in order to protect our goal and thus give the forwards freedom to attack and score."

Before hosting Chelsea in the second leg, Barca are at home to Real Madrid in a crucial La Liga clash on Saturday.


Cech pays tribute to Chelsea efforts

19 April 2012 04:25

Petr Cech says Chelsea can be proud of themselves after beating Barcelona 1-0 in the Champions League semi-final first leg on Wednesday.

The English Premier League hosts managed a narrow victory thanks to Didier Drogba's goal just before half-time at Stamford Bridge.

Goalkeeper Cech acknowledged his side rode their luck at times and said it had been tough for his team-mates to adapt to a game where they had very little possession.

"We can be proud of what we have done today," Cech told Sky Sports.

"There was amazing quality in the team, everyone gave 100 per cent. We are not used to playing 90 minutes without the ball. Mentally it is difficult to keep the focus.

"We have been brilliant all over the pitch, the commitment to defend and cover everyone, we had a bit of luck but everyone did as they were asked."

Cech was part of the Chelsea side knocked out of the competition by Barca at the same stage in 2009, and he is determined to make sure history does not repeat itself.

"Let's see (what will happen) - the last time we got a clean sheet at Camp Nou and we got a 1-1 here and we went out. This time they didn't get an away goal," he said.

"It's never easy to say 1-0 is an advantage against Barcelona. They are an exceptional side. They will always create something."

Chelsea have a trip to face immediate rivals Arsenal in the league on Saturday, as well as the FA Cup final against Liverpool next month, and Cech is trying to remain focused ahead of the return leg at Camp Nou next Tuesday.

"The games are coming thick and fast and we don't really have time to think, every game is a big focus," he said.

"Next we play Arsenal, which is a massive game, and then we go back to Barcelona."

Chelsea are sixth on the Premier League table, two points behind Newcastle and fourth-placed Tottenham.


Guardiola: Chelsea are favourites to progress

19 April 2012 02:09

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola says Chelsea are now favourites in their Champions League semi-final after winning the first leg 1-0 on Wednesday.

A goal from Didier Drogba just before the break at Stamford Bridge proved the difference between the two sides and earned the west London outfit a crucial lead for the return leg at Camp Nou next week.

"Chelsea are favourites now, but we have 90 minutes ahead and we must try to do our best to go through," Guardiola told reporters after the match.

"Our goal is to create 24 chances like we did today and score a goal. We must take same more risks, but I have told my players that if we created chances today, then we will do at Camp Nou as well.

"We know that in order to score, we need to create a lot of chances."

Barcelona enjoyed the majority of possession during the 90 minutes, but could not convert their superiority into goals against a tenacious Chelsea side.

Guardiola rued his side's lack of inspiration in front of goal and believes Chelsea will adopt a defensive approach in the second leg.

"The result is what it is," he said. "We probably had the highest number of chances away from home in a semi-final game, but we know that not scoring on the road will damage you.

"They scored a goal and I imagine that the same thing will happen at Camp Nou, with 10 Chelsea players in their area.

"This is a good goal for us, we will take it and if we want to be considered a big side, we will have to win."

The Catalan coach refused to criticise Roberto Di Matteo's strategy, saying: "I am not the one to say how they must play.

"They are the ones who must know how they have to play, but we cannot forget the fact that they have reached the Champions League semi-finals six times in the last nine years.

"Unfair result? No, this is football. You do not win with possession of the ball; if that were the case then we would win all the time.

"You have to score goals and that is what we will try to do in the return leg."


Champions League: Chelsea 1 Barcelona 0

18 April 2012 23:20

A Didier Drogba goal was enough to lift Chelsea to a 1-0 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.

Alexis Sanchez hit the bar early on and Cesc Fabregas had a weak effort cleared off the line for the reigning champions before Drogba delighted the Stamford Bridge crowd by finishing a smart break in first-half stoppage time.

Chelsea then shut Barca down effectively in a second half where chances were scarce, until Pedro hit the post and Sergio Busquets blasted the rebound feebly over at the death.

As expected, Barca immediately began dominating possession.

An Andres Iniesta through-ball that bypassed the Chelsea defence found Sanchez free in the area, and he deftly dinked it over Petr Cech but unluckily saw his effort come back off the crossbar.

Barca were not producing their best but should have been in front after 16 minutes.

Messi dragged two defenders out of the way before cutting back to Iniesta, whose shot was parried by Cech. The rebound came to Fabregas but he fired wide.

Midway through the half and Barca were slowly turning up the pressure.

First, Fabregas forced a near-post save from Cech before Messi leapt on the edge of the box to head an Alexis cross into the stretching keeper's arms.

A patchy period followed with a few niggling fouls and no great creation, with Chelsea quashing much of Barca's attacking prospects.

Their resistance was nearly broken on 42 minutes, however, when the visitors broke through Messi.

The Argentine slid in Fabregas to his left, but his colleague's attempt to lift it gently over Cech was underpowered and Ashley Cole arrived to clear off the line.

Half-time parity seemed inevitable but, in added time, Chelsea suddenly struck.

Ramires controlled well on the left flank and slipped a perfectly-weighted pass across the box, where Drogba was waiting to finish just past the grasping Victor Valdes, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

Barcelona probed after the break, Adriano cutting in on his right foot to send Cech flying to his left to save, but Chelsea's first corner moments later from Lampard was just missed by a couple of his team-mates.

Sanchez came close again when Fabregas' inventive scoop played the Chilean in at point-blank range, but he had little space to aim into and poked the ball wide.

Messi attempted more than one run forward from deep into the box but was thwarted first by Gary Cahill and then John Terry, with Pedro introduced by Pep Guardiola in place of Sanchez in the hope of better testing the resilient Blues.

It had little effect, though, with clear-cut chances absent and the visitors, short of ideas, looking unlikely to force their way through.

As they pushed up in desperation, Drogba was able to battle past on the break, but his through-ball into the path of substitute Salomon Kalou on 80 minutes was a touch too strong and the opportunity was lost.

Barca came close when Messi's 87th-minute free kick was flicked on by a crouching Puyol. Substitute Thiago Alcantara flashed at it but could not make contact, yet Cech still had to do well to dive and parry.

The visitors, though, should have equalised at the very last.

Despite Terry's excellent initial tackle to snuff out one chance, Pedro sliced a shot against the post before Busquets, with the goal at his mercy, lofted the ball high over the bar, meaning his side head into next week's second leg one down and without an away goal to their credit.


Champions League preview: Chelsea v Barcelona

18 April 2012 19:18

Chelsea and Barcelona renew hostilities when they meet in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Wednesday.

English Premier League giants Chelsea will be looking for revenge after Andres Iniesta's late goal in their 2008/09 semi-final tie put Barca into the final, which they won 2-0 against Manchester United.

Chelsea caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo's team, who booked their place in the FA Cup final on Sunday, welcome Barca to Stamford Bridge for the first leg.

In a blow to Chelsea, centre-back David Luiz could miss the match after being carried off the field with a hamstring injury in Sunday's 5-1 victory over Tottenham.

Di Matteo believes Barca have weaknesses his side can exploit, and said the focus would be on each of the European champions' players, not just the in-form Lionel Messi.

"It's not just about stopping a single player because obviously they have so many players that can hurt you," he said.

"It has to be a team tactic, a team strategy, to be able to limit their threat."

Di Matteo, who took over from Andre Villas-Boas in March, has helped inspire Chelsea's revival, with the Italian overseeing nine wins, two draws and just one loss in his time in charge.

Attacker Juan Mata will play a key role for Chelsea, with the Spaniard's ability to support striker Didier Drogba, as well as the Chelsea midfield, crucial.

Messi has scored 20 goals in his last 11 matches, an incredible run that has kept Barca in the hunt for the La Liga title.

The clash against Chelsea marks the start of a crucial week for Pep Guardiola's side, who meet Real Madrid in the El Clasico on Saturday.

Barca are unbeaten in 15 matches in all competitions, although they needed a fortuitous penalty to record a 2-1 win at Levante on Saturday.

Iniesta, Dani Alves and Gerard Pique all started on the bench in the win, and the trio could all fit into the starting 11 against Chelsea.

Guardiola's team have only kept one clean sheet in their last four matches, an encouraging sign for Chelsea.

Di Matteo's side need a strong result at home if they are to upset a high-flying Barcelona in the tie and book a place in the final.


Cech: Messi only human

18 April 2012 15:49

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech is adamant his side can stifle Barcelona's Lionel Messi in Wednesday's Champions League semi-final first leg.

The Argentine forward has been in scintillating form this season, notching over 60 goals in all competitions, including 14 in Europe's premier club competition.

Cech says Chelsea are well aware of the threat the 24-year-old will pose their defence, but believes they can defend against him.

"(Lionel) Messi in his current form is an enormous threat," Cech told his personal website.

"He is for sure one of the best players in the world but, as I said before, no team is invincible.

"His ball technique is superb but, most importantly, he can react to how the game develops. At the last possible moment in any situation he can find the ideal solution. There are a lot of ways that Messi can finish an attack.

"On the other hand, he is also only human and, if we perform to 100 per cent, we will be able to defend against him."

Cech also conceded that Chelsea are underdogs going into the game, but believes it is not above the Blues to pull off an upset.

"They (Barcelona) are the biggest favourites of the Champions League, they are defending the trophy but anything can happen," he added.

"We have two matches in which we can overturn the prognosis about favourites."


Busquets boasts Barca attack

18 April 2012 14:46

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said his side will attack in their Champions League semi-final first leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

The defensive midfielder acknowledged that the Blues, with the help of the home crowd, will not make it easy for Guardiola's men in Wednesday's clash, but added that the visiting Catalan outfit will be keen to get a result in the first 90 minutes.

"Our challenge is to keep to our style and system and forget the atmosphere. We want to score goals, as it makes it easier to cope with the second leg," Busquets told the Daily Mirror.

"Chelsea are a big club and the semi-final will be very even. No team is ever such a clear favourite at this stage of competition. People may see us as favourites, but we must remain focused if we are to reach the final."

The Spain international then went on to praise team-mate Lionel Messi, and reiterated that the Argentine is the best player in the game.

"Messi is the number one player in the world. That is not open to question. He provokes fear in opponents and that also helps his team-mates. It's a big advantage for us," Busquets said.

"Messi's form is incredible. He always offers the best performance possible. English clubs - Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United - have suffered the consequences."


Mata eyes Barcelona scalp

18 April 2012 10:30

Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata says beating Barcelona to reach the Champions League final would be a good end to a difficult season.

Roberto Di Matteo's side host the reigning European champions at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday in the first leg of their semi-final tie and their confidence heading into the fixture will be buoyed after securing a place in the FA Cup final following a 5-1 victory over Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday.

Mata admits that his first term at Stamford Bridge has failed to match pre-season expectations so far, but hails the advancement to two finals as a sign of improvement in the second half of the campaign.

"I came to England to win titles," Mata told

"Getting to the FA Cup final and having a chance (to advance) in the Champions League could change the balance of this season as things haven't been going as we had thought they would in the summer."

Chelsea are in danger of failing to secure a spot in the Champions League for next season as they sit two points behind fourth-placed Tottenham in the Premier League with five games remaining, and Mata concedes that his side may rue their inability to find a ruthless streak in front of goal this term.

"Inconsistency is killing us in the Premier League," he said.

"I don't know why but we haven't been able to kill off (our opponents) in a number of games and we have dropped points which we now could do with having.

"It will be hard to get into the top four but we are going to fight until the last day to get to the Champions League."

Despite uncertainty over the club's European qualification, the diminutive attacker is hoping to satisfy one of the ambitions that motivated his move from Valencia last summer by winning the FA Cup next month against Liverpool.

"I came to England to win titles and I know that the FA Cup is a very important competition," the 23-year-old said.

"Playing in the final and winning it would fulfil one of my first dreams on this adventure that I began last summer."

The Chelsea midfielder also hailed the recent displays of fellow Spaniard Fernando Torres, who is vying with Didier Drogba to start up front for the clash against Barcelona on Wednesday.

"Fernando Torres has been improving over the last few games," said Mata of his team-mate's turbulent season.

"His morale has increased and he is shooting better in training."


Di Matteo confident ahead of Barca tie

18 April 2012 03:26

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo believes his side holds a mental edge over Barcelona ahead of their Champions League semi-final tie.

The sides have a colourful history and many Chelsea players have spoken of 'unfinished business' to attend to following their controversial stoppage-time loss to Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League semi-finals.

Andres Iniesta's late strike sent Barcelona through to the final, which they won, but a series of controversial refereeing decisions ensured tempers flared in the aftermath.

With that in mind, Di Matteo insisted Barcelona had traditionally found Chelsea's style of play 'difficult' to counter and said that could lead to problems for the visitors in the first leg at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

"I think they don't like to play against us, the results in the past have shown that because the way that we play is a little bit more difficult for them to play against," Di Matteo said.

"We respect each other, but we both know there will be two teams tomorrow night that will play against each other and we have shown on many occasions that we are a team that give them a lot of problems."

Chelsea have undergone a resurgence under Di Matteo following the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas, winning nine of 12 matches since he took charge, the latest a 5-1 thrashing of Tottenham in their FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.

"We think over the last six weeks we've improved gradually and every win has given the team more belief and more self confidence.

"I think there was no better way of going into a home game against Barca than with a win on Sunday.

Meanwhile, veteran midfielder Frank Lampard says he has no regrets of staying with the west London club for 12 years, having passed up overtures from the Catalan giants in the past.

"I've got absolutely no regrets looking back at my career, some players go abroad to experience different cultures and different football," Lampard said.

"For (Cesc) Fabregas (former Arsenal midfielder), it was like he was going home (to Barcelona).

"I think it's been great for him and he's slipped into the Barcelona team with the ease that you'd expect him to with the style of play that he has.

"But me personally no, I'm very proud to have been at Chelsea for so long. It's my 12th season and there's certainly no point in looking back."


Lampard: FA Cup win can inspire Chelsea

17 April 2012 14:12

Frank Lampard hopes Chelsea can build on their FA Cup semi-final demolition of Tottenham when they face Barcelona on Wednesday.

The west London club ran out 5-1 winners at Wembley on Sunday and the 33-year-old wants to see that form taken into the crucial Champions League semi-final tie in midweek.

"It was an amazing game, I thought we played brilliantly and deserved to win that game," Lampard told Chelsea's official website.

"The amount we created, it couldn't have gone any better. Tottenham are a top team and normally our games are tight but we won it well.

"Spurs are a very good team and the margin was just down to us.

"It's difficult when you go three and 4-1 down at the end (but) we looked like a proper team out there and we have to take that into the Champions League and the rest of our league games."

Interim boss Roberto Di Matteo sealed the ninth win of his 12 matches in charge with victory over Harry Redknapp's men.

And Lampard was full of praise for the work the Italian has done since taking over from Andre Villas-Boas when the Blues were struggling.

"Robbie (Di Matteo) has been brilliant, he took over a team that was looking like going out of the Champions League, struggling in the league," he said.

"He loves the club, he has brought confidence into the dressing room, spoke to all the players and you can see the response he has got.

"He deserves full credit, and I can't speak highly enough of him."

Nonetheless, the England international remains wary of Barcelona and underlined the difficulty of overcoming Pep Guardiola's side.

"Barcelona are favourites because of the way they play and the players in their team, but if we play like we did at Wembley then we believe we've got a chance," Lampard said.

"We have huge respect for Barcelona, the best team in the world over the last two or three years.

"All that matters in the two games is that we perform on the night. Barcelona have so many players that can hurt you, (and) the greatest player in the world in Lionel Messi, so it's a tough task for us, but we have to be confident and take the game to them."

Premier League table

# Team MP D P
2 27 +32 56
3 27 +30 54
4 27 +26 53
5 27 +28 52
6 27 +15 45

La Liga table

# Team MP D P
1 24 +51 62
2 24 +27 55
3 24 +31 48
4 24 +19 46
5 24 -4 39
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