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Champions League preview: Blues and Barca to do it all over again

The European champions return to west London tonight for a mouth-watering semi-final first leg. Oh, it’s on.

Andres Iniesta: scored the winner against Chelsea in '09.
Andres Iniesta: scored the winner against Chelsea in '09.
Image: Alberto Saiz/AP/Press Association Images


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

The Premier League side 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.

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