After the two sides played out such a titanic match in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League last season, neutrals found themselves as excited as club officials when Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona emerged as the first pairing at today's first knockout round draw in Switzerland.
"What a draw!" Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon told uefa.com. "We heard we got Barcelona in the dress rehearsal so we thought we would avoid them in the real thing. We didn't and we now know we have to beat arguably the strongest team in Europe to progress - just like last year."
'Tie of the round'
Barcelona director of football Aitor 'Txiki' Beguiristain, whose club will visit Stamford Bridge on 22 February and stage the return on 7 March, said: "Both ourselves and Chelsea are having great seasons and it is definitely the tie of the round. There is no animosity at all and I just hope it is another brilliant football match which is remembered for the football and nothing else."
When these teams met at the same stage last term, Barcelona won 2-1 at Camp Nou yet conceded three goals in the first 19 minutes in London. Ronaldinho hauled Barça back with a penalty and goal of outrageous brilliance, only for John Terry to head Chelsea into a 5-4 aggregate lead which they never relinquished.
The result avenged their only other European meeting, in the 1999/00 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, where a 3-1 Chelsea home victory was matched by Barcelona in the opening 90 minutes of the return. Extra-time strikes from Rivaldo and Patrick Kluivert then earned the Catalans a 6-4 overall success. That 5-1 defeat is also the Blues' biggest loss in 96 UEFA competition outings.
Kenyon concluded by saying: "Just like ourselves, Barcelona have probably improved since last year. They play great football and will doubtless be even more determined to get revenge after we beat them last time. But José [Mourinho] and the lads will be focused and hopefully it will be another great football match which we end up winning."
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