UEFA Champions League live: 23 April

Monday 23 April 2012, 6.39CET
UEFA.com's team of reporters from across Europe bring you a round-up of the latest news, views and interviews ahead of this week's semi-final second legs in Barcelona and Madrid.
Published: Monday 23 April 2012, 6.39CET

UEFA Champions League live: 23 April

UEFA.com's team of reporters from across Europe bring you a round-up of the latest news, views and interviews ahead of this week's semi-final second legs in Barcelona and Madrid.

The 2011/12 UEFA Champions League semi-final second legs take place this week. UEFA.com's team of reporters and correspondents from across Europe will bring you all the build-up as we count down to kick-off on Tuesday.

All times CET.

Monday 21.38, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué backed up his coach's comments that fatigue was not affecting the side and will play no part in the performance tomorrow evening. "Tiredness isn’t on anyone’s minds," said the 25-year-old. "How many chances do you have to reach a Champions League final? We have to give all we have to make the final."

Piqué will also need to pick up the phone to ensure he doesn't miss out on any last-minute advice from a former Manchester United FC team-mate. “Rio Ferdinand sent me a message today that he wants to talk to me, I don’t know what about." If it is advice on how to handle Didier Drogba it is easier said than done. "He’s one of the best strikers I have seen," said the Barcelona centre-back.

Monday 20.57, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech was keen to put to bed the myth that the Camp Nou pitch will give the UEFA Champions League holders the advantage tomorrow. There has been a lot of talk in the press that due to the larger playing area, compared to Stamford Bridge, Barcelona will have more room to get behind the Blues' back line. However, the Czech Republic international was quick to point out that it is the opponents and not the terrain that Chelsea have to worry about.

"The pitch has to be within guidelines because there are rules in the Champions League," he said. "It looks bigger because the stadium is bigger, but the dimensions are more or less the same. Barcelona make the pitch look bigger because they always have the ball."

Monday 20.46, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Josep Guardiola also addressed questions on the state of his squad after fatigue appeared to be catching up with Barcelona following a series of high-profile games. "There's no tiredness," he said "Not in the legs, maybe in the mind, but this is the Champions League semi-final and we will try to compete to reach the final."

Guardiola also explained that Lionel Messi was forced to miss training yesterday due to illness, and answered questions on Gerard Piqué's recent absence from the starting XI. "Leo [Messi] had a stomach bug so he stayed at home to rest yesterday," explained the coach. "Gerard Piqué, there's nothing wrong there. I have a team and I decide who plays and I thought [Javier] Mascherano and [Carles] Puyol was a good option in recent games. I care a lot for Gerard because of the way he is, his love of life and football, the rest is entirely up to me and my decisions."

Monday 20.30, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Guardiola gave his full backing to his Barcelona side as he spoke to the press. Despite losing their last two games the coach has complete faith in his men, and was in bullish mood as he discussed the chances of making it to Munich. "Believe me when I say we will make it tomorrow," said Guardiola. "I believe this for hundreds of reasons; these players will beat Chelsea. I know there's a wish for us not to make it, but let us believe that we will.

"All our semi-finals have been very tough and we know the first leg was disappointing, but we can't think about that. I know they will do it tomorrow because I know they can do it. They will play to win."

Monday 20.24, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Chelsea interim manager Roberto Di Matteo assured the media that his side would go looking for a goal tomorrow evening and not simply try to hold on to the slender lead which they hold from last week's first leg. "We will try to limit Barcelona in their attack," said the 41-year-old. "We will also try to score a goal because I think we will have our chances to score."

However the Italian knows his defence will need to be at the top of their game as they were last week, and singled out January signing Gary Cahill as a key player for the Blues. "I am impressed with Cahill. We are very pleased with the way our defenders have played lately, keeping a clean sheet [in the first leg]. I talk about collective performance with us defending as a team."

Monday 20.09, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Barcelona have distributed Guardiola's squad list for tomorrow's game. Every member of last week's matchday squad is included with Tello, Ibrahim Afellay and Martín Montoya giving the coach additional options. Lionel Messi, who reported feeling unwell yesterday, is also included.

The full squad is: Victor Valdés, José Pinto, Daniel Alves, Gerard Piqué, Cesc Fàbregas, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Alexis Sánchez, Lionel Messi, Thiago Alcántara, Javier Mascherano, Seydou Keita, Sergio Busquets, Pedro Rodríguez, Afellay, Adriano, Isaac Cuenca, Montoya, Tello and Marc Bartra.

Monday 19.40, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Petr Čech has made his appearance at Chelsea FC's pre-match press conference at the Camp Nou and has given an honest appraisal of his side's situation, but while he recognises his side rode their luck in the first leg against Barcelona, he is confident their experience can see them through. "Chelsea were very lucky in the first leg but we did play a good game tactically," he said. "We played well and we will also have to play well tomorrow but it is a difficult match."

"Barcelona are favourites because they are at home, but we want to prove that we aren't jinxed against them. We are in a good position after winning 1-0 to reach the final, and that's what we want to do. Last time we didn't manage to reach the final and now we have the chance to do so. We are more experienced and anything can happen. I have been hoping for the last eight years to win the Champions League, so I hope this year is going to be the year.

Monday 19.20, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Leo Messi has joined the rest of the team for the afternoon session here at the Camp Nou. The Argentinian was absent yesterday as he wasn't feeling well enough. At the sight of the Barcelona star on the pitch, there was a round of applause in the press room as journalists were watching the team train on TV. The other surprise was to see Thierry Henry on the pitch at the Camp Nou. The French forward is in Barcelona and paid a visit to his former team-mates prior to one of the most important games of the season.

Monday 19.00, UEFA.com London newsdesk
The Chelsea press conference ahead of tomorrow's match got under way at 18.45 CET, with Czech international goalkeeper Petr Cech being accompanied by his coach, Roberto Di Matteo, in the press room at the Camp Nou.

Monday 18.42, Lucy Turner from the Barcelona press conference
With successive defeats in big matches, there have been murmurs that Pep Guardiola's Barcelona might be coming to the end of their cycle of dominance. This however, is a suggestion that is wholly refuted by Gerard Piqué: "It's easy to say it is the end of a cycle," said Piqué. "A team that has won so many titles deserves more credit. We have to wait for other clubs to win as many titles. We have won lots, so we deserve a little more respect."

"I don't think any fan doubts this team," added the centre-back. "They understand we can lose a match because our opponents are very good. I am sure that tomorrow the Camp Nou will be full and everyone will support the team. It was the same last season when we lost the Cup final, and we have a great chance tomorrow to qualify for another final. We have to value this moment a lot."

Monday 18.18, Graham Hunter in Barcelona
Some observers of Josep Guardiola's team have been a touch surprised about how little playing time Gerard Piqué has enjoyed in recent weeks - particularly in the defeats against Chelsea and Real Madrid. However the defender could not be clearer on his feelings about the matter: "I'm a Barcelona fan first and foremost. Whether I play or not tomorrow doesn't seem to me to be the big issue. All I want is for the team to win and to get to the final. If people are talking about the 'end of an era' here then they are doing so far too soon."

Monday 18.00, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Lionel Messi missed yesterday's training session as he wasn't feeling too good. The Argentinian forward is, however, expected to be in fine form for this evening's session, which will take place at 18.00 CET at the Camp Nou. Pep Guardiola cheered up his players yesterday, trying to alleviate the sense of pessimism he detected after the defeat at home to rivals Madrid. The coach wants the team and the fans to fight together to make it in to the UEFA Champions League final in Munich, and the Catalan side is going to distribute thousands of Barcelona flags in the stands for supporters to cheer the team on.

Monday 17.38, Peter Bruun in Copenhagen 
Martin Vingaard, midfielder of Danish champions and Superliga leaders FC København, believes in Barcelona and Real Madrid, when it comes to the second leg of the semi-finals. "I believe the Spanish teams will qualify for the final," Vingaard told the Danish website onside.dk. Vingaard was involved in both of FCK's UCL group matches against Barcelona last season, and he has particular confidence in them: "Their defeat against Chelsea in the first match was just one of those games you see once in a while, where Barça miss a lot of opportunities, while Chelsea score the only one they had."

Monday 17.20, UEFA.com London newsdesk
The Mirror is focusing on Chelsea defender Gary Cahill, who has experienced a meteoric rise, going from Bolton to Barcelona in a matter of months. Unlike Cahill, his centre-back partner John Terry and most of his team-mates have experience of the Camp Nou, where Chelsea have played four times since 2005.

"The lads say that the pitch is big and you can see from the TV games what the atmosphere's like," Cahill is quoted as saying by the daily paper. "It will help, obviously, with the lads that have been there before and the experienced players that are going to be out on the field.

"Hopefully it'll stand us in a little bit of good stead," added Cahill. "You probably need an element of luck, you need the concentration levels from everyone to be where they were the other night, and everyone sticking to their job and working hard. We're under no illusions how hard the game's going to be but we've given ourselves a good start."

Monday 16.53, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
All eyes will be on Barça's evening training session as the press clamour for news on the fitness of a certain Lionel Messi. Catalan daily Sport informs that the UEFA Champions League's top scorer phoned his club at 9am yesterday complaining of "slight physical discomfort" after taking part in the previous evening's 2-1 loss to Real Madrid and was told to stay at home and rest as opposed to attending Sunday's workout at club headquarters. Despite the concern the news will have initially caused coach Josep Guardiola ahead of Tuesday's second leg, the publication explains, "It is anticipated the Argentinian will be back among his team-mates this evening" and "will feature against Chelsea tomorrow."

Monday 16.30, Lucy Turner at the Camp Nou
Gerard Piqué will be speaking to the press this afternoon at 17.00 CET. The central defender has not played since 3 April when he was injured against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. Of the five games he has missed in official competitions, Barcelona have won three and lost twice.

Monday, 16:15, Elvir Islamović, Zagreb
Lucky Chelsea. Croatian newspaper 24sata have counted that Chelsea's opponents in their last three matches - Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona - have hit the goal frame five times. Beside Chelsea's good fortune, the Croatian daily newspaper are also praising goalkeeper Petr Čech, who "stopped the rest of the shots". But the paper ends its game of numbers with the fact that "Barcelona have lost two consecutive games but haven't lost three matches in a row for nine years now."

Monday 15.54, UEFA.com London newsdesk
Former Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen says that the Blues have the belief to be able to repeat their first-leg defensive feat and deny Barcelona a place in the Champions League final.

In an interview with BBC Sport, Gudjohnsen, who moved from Stamford Bridge to Barcelona in 2006, says Roberto Di Matteo's side can hold on to their 1-0 lead in the second leg at the Nou Camp tomorrow. "Chelsea have given themselves great hope by the way they defended at Stamford Bridge," said Gudjohnsen. "They rode their luck a little bit but they believe they can win."

"At Stamford Bridge they were very tactically organised," he added. "They limited the space for Barcelona to play in. They will need to do that for 90 minutes in the Nou Camp. It is a very difficult task but they have done it once."

Monday 15.36, Graham Hunter in Barcelona
Josep Guardiola's reigning Spanish and European champions have scored a whopping 130 goals between their domestic league and the UEFA Champions League so far this season. But their last two key games, defeats to Chelsea and Real Madrid, have seen the tendency to make and miss chances. Sergio Busquets believes that just a minor adjustment to their work will take Barça to the final in Munich. "Failing to stick away the chances is the key. "We are all playing well, pressing well but we just need to finish the chances."

Monday 15.15, Berend Scholten, Dutch newsdesk
Dutch and Barcelona icon Johan Cruyff thinks that despite disappointing recent defeats to Chelsea and Real Madrid, Barcelona will reach the UEFA Champions League final in Munich next month.

"I was not so happy with the outcome of Barcelona – Real Madrid," explained Cruyff in his column in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. "The simple things went wrong, making that Barcelona let the match end up in a battle, which Real will always win" said the former Barça star.

"The defeat against Real is different to the loss against Chelsea," he added. "In London enough opportunities were created, that just were not converted. Against Real there were hardly any opportunities to score. Still I expect Barcelona to make it against Chelsea tomorrow."

Monday 14.56, Jürgen Baumgartner, German newsdesk
No less than seven Bayern players will be suspended for a possible final if they are booked on Wednesday in Madrid - David Alaba, Holger Badstuber, Jérôme Boateng, Luiz Gustavo, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm and Thomas Müller. But for coach Jupp Heynckes that is no big problem, according to him his players are "very intelligent. They exactly know when they should attack and when they should stay away. They can avoid a ban if they are concentrated and focussed on the events on the pitch." Badstuber said: "We have to be careful. But on the other side we must approach this game like any other match. It absolutely makes no sense to give thoughts to that.”

Monday 14.35, UEFA.com London newsdesk
The Sun newspaper tells of how Barcelona maestro Xavi was so annoyed after their 2-1 Clásico defeat to Madrid that he wanted to play Chelsea today. After the match, the Spanish World Cup winner is quoted as saying: "We are lucky because on Tuesday we're playing for a place in the Champions League final. I wish we could play Chelsea on Monday - we want to overturn the deficit against Chelsea and show we deserve to be in the final."

Xavi also warned Robeto Di Matteo's charges that a full Camp Nou will be roaring the home team on to victory. "Our fans are intelligent and they know that on Tuesday we're playing half our season so we want the supporters behind us all the way," he said. "We have it in our hands to have a great season. It would be an historic achievement to reach another Champions League final and win the Spanish Cup. I imagine Chelsea will be camped outside their own area so we will try to find spaces to ‘open the can’."

Monday 14.13, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Their 2-1 win over Barcelona at the weekend means Madrid are in high spirits ahead of Wednesday's second leg against Bayern who hold a 2-1 lead in the tie. Known as 'The Special One' during his time in charge of Chelsea, José Mourinho was joined by Cristiano Ronaldo in what Spanish daily El Mundo referred to in English as "The Special Two" after the pair masterminded only a second victory over their rivals in eleven attempts.

For one night only, the Nou Camp was nicknamed "The Mou Camp," according to the publication while El País said it took Madrid "eleven clásicos to dismantle Barça," paying particular attention to the "immense progress of Mesut Özil and Karim Benzema." The Merengues have been going through their paces at the club's Valdebebas training complex this morning ahead of Wednesday's meeting with Bayern.

Monday 13.51, Josef Ladislav, Czech newsdesk
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Čech sees the game at Camp Nou as an open one after the Blues' 1-0 home victory. "They are still favourites, but an away goal could be vital for us. We mustn't give them any space, we have to defend well and rely on counters. There is no other way to play against them. We played out a goalless draw at Camp Nou last time and that would be a good result again."

But the Chelsea stopper is not intimidated by the trip: "I always enjoy the games at the huge Camp Nou. We all are experienced enough not to have shivering knees there!"

Monday 13.33, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
"Madrid against Munich: The Showdown" is the headline of bi-weekly football magazine kicker on Monday, saying that this is a match that "fascinates every football fan." But despite all the prodigious attackers on the pitch, the magazine focuses on Bayern stopper Manuel Neuer, a man who has had "an exciting year".

"Ten months ago, Neuer came to Munich. In this short time, the German national keeper has experienced several highs and lows," explains the publication. "Blunders like that in the first Bundesliga game against [VfL Borussia] Mönchengladbach on the one hand, but also world-class stops like that against FC Augsburg on the other."

The magazine goes on to say that Bayern "will never have negatives" about Neuer, a goalkeeper around whom they "wish to build another famous era - just as Bayern did with Oliver Kahn." As for the match on Wednesday, Neuer "will be depended upon [...] especially against Cristiano Ronaldo."

Monday 13.12, Paul Bryan, Spanish newsdesk
Much of the chatter in the cafés and bars across Spain yesterday involved the previous evening's Clásico encounter, in which Real Madrid left the Camp Nou with a 2-1 win against rivals Barcelona to increase their Liga lead to seven points with four games remaining. Josep Guardiola congratulated the victors - whose goals came from Sami Khedira and Cristiano Ronaldo - before admitting he quickly wanted to turn his attention to this week's UEFA Champions League semi-final opponents Chelsea who hold a 1-0 lead in the tie. "Congratulations to Madrid for their win and for [winning] the league," the coach said afterwards. "We're eager to recover from this and to get ready for Tuesday's game as soon as possible." The Blaugrana's preparations continue with training at 18.00 this evening before which defender Gerard Piqué will field questions from the press.

Monday 12.50, UEFA.com London newsdesk
The Daily Mail has been considering what Chelsea and Barcelona have learned about each other from the events of this weekend, which brought a Clásico defeat for Barça and a stalemate with Arsenal for Chelsea.

The paper is positive about the Blues' chances, saying that Barcelona's unbeaten run of 54 home matches is finally over, proving Barça are "not impregnable at Nou Camp". They add that Josep Guardiola's back three is "vulnerable", that Madrid proved "it is possible to stop Lionel Messi by cutting off his supply", and that the Clásico showed that packing out midfield "makes it difficult for Xavi and Iniesta to weave their magic."

Monday 12.27, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
More on the repaired rift between Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben: "I believe that everything is ok again between those two," said team-mate Jérôme Boateng, while coach Jupp Heynckes added: "I think that scene speaks for itself. From time to time there are differences in a football team. That's been solved and I think that those two can shelve this incident. I hope that we will concentrate on the essential thing in the future - playing good football."

Monday 12.23, Steffen Potter, German newsdesk
In the Munich-based Abendzeitung, the main focus is on the reconciliation between Bayern's flying wingers Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben, who had a quarrel after the first leg against Real Madrid.

"The most important thing from Bayern's point of view regarding the business trip to Bremen is that everyone is still fit. The 2-1 win? Nice. Enjoyable. Historic, on the other hand, is the peace of the Weser river. The French-Dutch war between Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben, also called the Five Day War, has been settled," writes the paper, going into detail on the scene that underlined the reconciliation. "Ribéry first brought down Werder Bremen with his last minute winner and then ran towards the Bayern bench. He extended his fist towards Robben - and the latter approved. Fist on fist, Robben twinkled. A public reconciliation through the fist of Ribéry."

Monday 12.05, Christian Châtelet, French newsdesk
Speaking to the French media after his Arsenal FC side drew 0-0 with Chelsea FC this weekend, Arsène Wenger tipped Roberto Di Matteo's side to cause a possible surprise against Barcelona. "The Barcelona we saw last week is not the one of last year," the French tactician said. "It makes the victory less impossible for Chelsea who were able to rest eight players [against Arsenal]. Barcelona could not afford that against Real Madrid. They miss David Villa and [Lionel] Messi looks a bit tired [...]. Should Chelsea manage to defend like they did on Wednesday, they have a chance to reach the final."

Monday 12.00, UEFA.com newsdesk
Before the day's business gets under way, a gentle reminder that there are a number of ways to win great prizes with UEFA.com, including Predictor, Player Rater, and Classics.

FC Barcelona vs Chelsea FC (agg: 0-1)

Real Madrid CF vs FC Bayern München (agg: 1-2)


Last updated: 24/04/12 17.33CET