UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents are providing all the build-up to this evening's UEFA Champions League semi-final first-leg meeting between Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona, and the reaction from last night's games.
All times CET.
Wednesday 19.05, UEFA.com newsdesk
That is that from Wednesday's UEFA Champions League blog. Our MatchCentre opens in just ten minutes, though, and will offer in-depth in-game commentary, analysis from Stamford Bridge and thoughts from our Spanish newsdesk. We will have a match report and flash reaction to follow straight after the game, with video highlights at 00.00 and more detailed quotes in the morning.
Wednesday 18.45, Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge
Lampard was also keen to point out yesterday that Chelsea must be disciplined throughout the tie against the European champions. In fact, the Blues are unbeaten in any of five previous meetings with Barcelona, and have never lost to the Catalan giants when they have kept 11 men on the pitch. "I think discipline is a huge factor in games; particularly at this level," said the England midfielder. "To play a man down against Barcelona as we have done before is very tough.
"There's a fine line; you have to be disciplined but you also have to tackle and close space. Our record against Barcelona is good and we have to take confidence from that. We have to use our strengths that we have as a team and we have to try and win. And yes, keeping 11 players on the field is absolutely crucial."
Wednesday 18.15, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Should you take a brief surf through Barça's official website today, you will eventually come across the words, "We Love London", and no wonder.
The club's four European Cup triumphs to date can all be linked with the English capital. In 1992, Barcelona's first ever victory in European club football's elite competition took place at Wembley, while in 2006 and 2009 tonight's opponents Chelsea were dismissed as the Blaugrana again went on to win. Josep Guardiola's side were back again last season to defeat Arsenal FC. Another trip to Wembley followed soon after and victory against Manchester United FC in the showpiece saw the famous trophy heading back to Spain once more.
Wednesday 17.45, Jamie Reid at Stamford
With the action now just three hours away the media room here at Stamford Bridge is open for business. There are already journalists here from Europe, America and the Middle East – and with the eyes of the world focusing on this small corner of London tonight, numerous other nations will be represented as the world's press gather.
Meanwhile, John Terry has used his Captain's Notes column of the matchday programme to issue a rallying cry to the Blues' faithful. "This is an opportunity for us to show how good we can be at home and how difficult it is for teams coming to Stamford Bridge," he writes. "Let's hear every single one of you as we go for it tonight. Come on the Chels!"
Wednesday 17.20, Trevor Haylett en route to Stamford Bridge
There are remarkable similarities between the managerial reigns at Chelsea of Guus Hiddink and Roberto Di Matteo. After 12 games the interim manager has won nine, drawn two and lost one, exactly the same as Hiddink's first 12 games in charge after taking over in February 2009. Like the Dutchman, Di Matteo has also led the club to the FA Cup final and UEFA Champions League semi-finals. Now at this juncture, the Stamford Bridge faithful will be hoping that the two paths diverge because Hiddink's Chelsea suffered defeat in the last four against Barcelona.
Wednesday 16.40, Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge
The atmosphere is building here in west London; souvenir stands are setting up, burger vans beginning to arrive and TV broadcast trucks fill up the area behind the Matthew Harding Stand. The rain has also cleared and the sun has made its first appearance of the day. One man focused solely on tonight's game, however, is the Blues' influential midfielder Frank Lampard. Speaking to the assembled world media, the 33-year-old emphasised the enormity of the task in hand, but also insisted he and his team-mates cannot allow themselves to fear their opponents. "We're under no illusions but I quite like the tag of being underdogs," he said.
"It's always refreshing if you believe in yourselves. The last thing we want to do is take too much fear into this game; you can talk yourself into fear by talking up Barcelona all the time. We have to believe in ourselves, we have to respect the opposition, but we have to go and play our game. If we do that I personally believe we have a very good chance of winning the game. But we have to be at our best because we are taking on the best."
Wednesday 16.10, UEFA.com newsdesk
While his participation in tonight's match is in the balance after Didier Drogba's sterling display against Tottenham Hotspur FC in the FA Cup semi-final last Sunday, Fernando Torres has been excitedly talking up the possibility of winning some silverware with the Blues this term.
"There isn't a single club in the world that can guarantee trophies, but top teams like Chelsea are always fighting for them. Now it's time to be patient, build a great team and it's good for me to be involved with such a good side, like the one we have now," Torres tells chelseafc.com. "There's still one month left in the season, we're in the final of the FA Cup, the semi-finals of the Champions League and this is what I want. Whether you win or not, that is down to football, but we are there and that's the main thing.
"If I can win a trophy with Chelsea, it will be the first trophy I've won with a club," he says. "So that is a big ambition. [The UEFA Champions League trophy] was the only trophy I wanted as a kid, to hold it in my arms, and if we do manage to win it, I'm sure it will be one of the greatest moments of my life."
Wednesday 15.55, Delfín Ramírez, Spanish newsdesk
Catalan sports daily El Mundo Deportivo talks about tonight's game in the English capital, stating: "Pep Guardiola's Barça enjoyed one of their biggest nights of glory at Stamford Bridge and now return to the stage which opened the doors to the UEFA Champions League final in Rome in 2009 and all that followed. Barça want to play their third final in the last four years, fourth in the last seven, to further confirm their indisputable continental supremacy."
Wednesday 15.34, UEFA.com newsdesk
Speaking to the media ahead of tonight's encounter with the reigning Spanish and European champions, Frank Lampard was in a confident mood and played up Chelsea's chances:
"I think our style of play has been very effective of late. We are mixing a powerful, organised, disciplined game with some good attacking football and the way we are playing we can be a match for anyone," said the 33-year-old midfielder. "We respect completely that Barcelona are not only the in-form team now, but also the dominant team in Europe over the last few years so we know we have to be at our best – but we believe in ourselves."
"Nothing is inevitable – you wish it was," added Lampard. "I think it makes you more determined. Every year you get a bit older as a team and we appreciate what we want more – you realise semi-finals don't come around every year, we won't be here forever, and it makes you more determined and excited about the game coming up. It's a huge occasion."
Wednesday 15.15, Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge
The magnitude of tonight's game is evident for all to see in the number of media representatives due to attend the game tonight. In all there will be 289 written press, 94 photographers and 55 television and radio commentators; servicing 16 broadcasters from every corner of the world. Unsurprisingly, the match is also a complete sell-out – with 38,069 tickets sold.
Wednesday 14.50, Ondřej Zlámal, Czech newsdesk
Czech daily Sport today talks about Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech, who has now faced Lionel Messi four times without the Argentinian scoring. The Czech international has spoken about the way he was preparing for Messi ahead of tonight's game.
"I got the DVD with selected goals of his on Sunday," explained Čech. "I always study our opponents' forwards ... but Messi's goals took me much more time.
He has great technical skills, and perfectly reacts to the situations in play. In the very last 100th of a second he is able to pick an ideal solution - in the past, [Zinédine] Zidane was capable of this. There are many ways Messi can finish. On the other hand he is only a man, and if we play at 100%, we can manage to defend him."
Wednesday 14.29, UEFA.com newsdesk
While Chelsea fans will be buoyed by their impressive record against Barcelona, what is not such a positive omen is that the Catalan side have ultimately triumphed in three of the clubs' four previous two-legged ties in the UEFA Champions League.
Interestingly, Roberto Di Matteo and Josep Guardiola were on opposing sides for the first of these UEFA Champions League contests in 1999/2000. Di Matteo was a 71st-minute substitute in Chelsea's 3-1 home quarter-final win when Guardiola remained on the bench, while both featured from the start in Barcelona's 5-1 second-leg success after extra time, Chelsea's heaviest defeat in UEFA competition. Also involved were Carles Puyol, who appeared in both games, and Xavi Hernández, a starter in the first leg but on the bench for the return.
For more facts like this, read UEFA.com's match background here.
Wednesday 14.03, Delfín Ramírez, Spanish newsdesk
On tonight's match between Chelsea and Barcelona, AS offers its view on a selection headache for coach Roberto di Matteo - whether to play who they dub "the player" Fernando Torres or "the striker" Didier Drogba.
"Roberto di Matteo has a problem: he has two forwards. One makes the team play, but is denied in front of goal – although Barça is one of his favorite victims and has scored seven in ten Liga games against them. The other, more static, restricts the dynamism of his team, but makes goals from nothing." In short, the Italian tactician must choose between the dynamic Torres or the powerful Drogba.
Wednesday 13.38, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Home, or "dahoam" in Bavarian dialect, is the theme in Cologne tabloid Express, which writes about Bayern moving a step closer to "fulfilling their dream" of a final in their own stadium thanks to matchwinner Mario Gomez.
"Everyone had settled for a draw - except for Gomez. The goalscorer on duty did what he does best: scored! It was München's fourth 2-1 home win against Madrid in the past eleven years, and Bayern remain their 'Bestia Negra' (Black Beast). Thanks to Gomez the dream is alive."
The paper goes on to add that "nevertheless, it will be really difficult for Munich in Madrid," and says that "Bayern will hope that Madrid bleed themselves dry this weekend in the Clásico."
Wednesday 13.16, Jamie Reid at Stamford Bridge
I arrived at Chelsea's stadium a full nine hours ahead of kick-off and despite the torrential rain in London this morning, there are already a number of Barcelona supporters braving the weather and exploring the surrounding area. Aside from looking decidedly cold, they seem in good spirit, and speaking to one of them as I entered the stadium his prediction was a "3-0 win for Barcelona".
However, with an impressive recent record against Spanish opposition, Chelsea may have something to say to the confident Catalonian; the London club are undefeated against Liga opponents – home and away – in 13 competitive fixtures; a run dating back to the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League round of 16 against ... Barcelona.
Wednesday 12.47, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
The fitness of Bastian Schweinsteiger was one of the hot topics in the German press, with the midfielder under the microscope after last night's match. "It simply was not his day: Bastian Schweinsteiger blunders before Madrid's goal and is taken off the pitch early", writes Munich-based daily Abendzeitung. "Though he tried, worked and struggled, he never found his way into the game. He was unable to keep up with the high tempo."
Frankfurter Rundschau writes: "He tried to close gaps, but often came that one step too late against the quick Madrid attackers. He only played save passes and did not give any impetus to Bayern's attacks."
Süddeutsche Zeitung adds: "As expected, the vice-captain returned to his position next to Luis Gustavo. He lost his first challenge against Sami Khedira, a possible rival for his place with the national team, but improved as the link between the defense and attacking strategist Toni Kroos. However, his lack of fitness was noticeable after his long break."
Wednesday 12.28, UEFA.com newsdesk
Reigning champions Barcelona have not lost in any competition since early February. Chelsea, meanwhile, have suffered a single reverse in their last 12 outings yet are still only clinging to the coat-tails of the Premier League's top four and are now without defender David Luiz. With Lionel Messi as imperious as ever, Roberto Di Matteo's men would appear to have their work cut out. UEFA.com asked recently: Can Chelsea keep Barcelona at bay?
It could also prompt a rethink from Roberto Di Matteo who had been expected to start with Fernando Torres tonight ahead of Didier Drogba. The Ivorian's stunning goal at Wembley on Sunday might have pushed him ahead of the Spaniard in the queue for starting places tonight and with his physical presence he is surely better placed to add to Gerard Piqué and Carles Puyol's difficulties.
Wednesday 11.57, Delfín Ramírez, Spanish newsdesk
Sports daily AS talks about judgement day at the Santiago Bernabéu in the second leg on the UEFA Champions League semi-final between Real Madrid and Bayern, and offers the following headline on last night's encounter: "Another Madrid, same Bayern".
The paper writes that the events on the pitch last night were far from unexpected. "Nobody said it would be easy and if anyone did say it, it will not be repeated. Nothing is easy in a UEFA Champions League semi-final."
They do find a crumb of comfort in a strike by one of their German stars, however: "Real Madrid lost in Munich again (nine out of ten) but Mesut Özil's goal should be of comfort. According to the old treaties of the European Cup, losing by the minimum is not a bad result if you score an away goal."
Wednesday 11.40, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
The newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says that Bayern now holds the aces in their tie with Madrid after they "were rewarded for their ceaseless push for a goal" last night, and although there is a little concern in Germany at the away goal, the paper is happy to make excuses for Bayern.
"With the equaliser, Heynckes' priority of not conceding in the first leg did not work out," it reads. "But not conceding against Madrid is something almost no one manages to do. It was Real's 157th goal this season, and with it the team equalled the club record of the legendary 1960 team of [Alfredo] di Stefano and [Ferenc] Puskas. Now Bayern has to survive 90 minutes in Madrid, to reward themselves with a dream come true."
Wednesday 11.18, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
Although French sides are no longer involved in the competition, national daily L'Équipe has UEFA Champions League splashed across its front page. Beneath a headline of "Beyond Real" the sports newspaper shows an exhilarated Franck Ribéry celebrating Bayern's first goal. "Led by a cracking Ribéry, Germans finally upset the Spanish armada," it reads. "Considering how intense this first leg was, expect an amazing return next Wednesday in Madrid."
Wednesday 11.04, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
Predictably, the German press is buzzing with excitement this morning following Mario Gomez's last-gasp winner for Bayern against Real Madrid last night, and Bild is no exception. "Bayern's dream of the final lives on!" shouts the headline, while the paper revels in the drama of Gomez's sliding strike. "A goal by Mario Gomez in minute 89 keeps the dream of the home final in Munich on 19 May alive! But what a dramatic match it was. Gomez's knee-goal could be worth its weight in gold when the return leg is played on Wednesday."
Wednesday 11.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
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FC Bayern München 2-1 Real Madrid CF
Chelsea FC v FC Barcelona
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