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Champions League preview: Blues on the brink of Barca showdown

Roberto di Matteo will see his side into the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition if they can defend a single-goal lead.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Image: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire/Press Association Images

CHELSEA WILL BE hoping they can keep their perfect home record in the Champions League intact when they host Benfica tonight.

Roberto Di Matteo’s side have won all four home matches in Europe’s top competition this season, and another win this evening will be enough for them to reach the semi-finals.

A lone goal from Salomon Kalou gave Chelsea a handy 1-0 win in the first leg of their quarter-final against Jorge Jesus’ side last week. Indeed Chelsea have lost just once in their past nine home games in the Champions League, the defeat coming against Manchester United in last season’s quarter-final.

The Blues have also been in good form since Di Matteo took over from the sacked Andre Villas-Boas in early March, with a narrow loss to Manchester United and a scoreless draw with Tottenham the only blemishes on the Italian’s record after eight games in charge.

They showed no ill effects from their trip to Benfica in a 4-2 win over Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, with defender Branislav Ivanovic returning from injury and scoring a brace. Striker Didier Drogba missed the match at Villa Park with a toe injury while defender David Luiz was sidelined with an ankle complaint, and both will face fitness tests ahead of Wednesday’s return leg against Benfica.

The Portuguese side are second in the Liga Sagres, one point behind Porto, but will need to continue to punch above their weight in Europe if they are to progress to the semi-finals. Benfica have already seen off one English side in the Champions League this season, claiming two draws against Manchester United as they topped Group C, while Sir Alex Ferguson’s men finished third and were eliminated.

They will also take confidence in their impressive away record in the Champions League this season, with just one loss in six matches away from the Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica. And goalkeeper Artur believes there is no reason his side cannot get a result in London.

“We’ll have to work really hard to win the second leg. Benfica showed the reason why we’re in the quarter-finals and, despite the loss, we have the quality to turn the tie around,” Artur said.

“We drew 2-2 with Manchester United, who are also a great team, so I don’t see why we can’t go to London thinking of winning the game. Nothing is impossible in football and we will fight to win that match.”

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