Chelsea FC's UEFA Champions League performances can be bettered by few clubs in recent years. In FC Barcelona, though, they come up against opponents of a currently peerless pedigree who have proved an irksome thorn in their side in previous campaigns.
Chelsea looked down and out after losing 3-1 at SSC Napoli in the first leg of their round of 16 tie in February, but have bounced back in style since parting company with manager André Villas-Boas. Roberto Di Matteo's temporary appointment has galvanised the London team, culminating in their 3-1 aggregate defeat of SL Benfica in the quarter-finals. They are back in the familiar territory of the last four – with a sixth semi-final appearance in nine seasons – yet will Barcelona prove a bridge too far?
That was the case the last time the Blues reached this stage of Europe's premier club competition in 2009, Andrés Iniesta scoring three minutes into added time of the second leg to earn Barça victory on away goals. Josep Guardiola's charges went on to beat Manchester United FC in that year's final, marking the start of a period of European dominance so far interrupted by just José Mourinho's FC Internazionale Milano in 2010.
Mourinho, at the Stamford Bridge helm when Chelsea and Barcelona were drawn together in three successive UEFA Champions League campaigns from 2004/05 onwards, is again looking to get one over on the Camp Nou outfit this term. However Barcelona, 13 points adrift of Mourinho's Real Madrid CF at the Liga summit on 10 March, are now right behind them having notched ten straight Liga victories.
Indeed, the reigning champions have not lost in any competition since early February. Chelsea, meanwhile, have suffered a single reverse in their last 11 outings yet are still only clinging to the coat-tails of the Premier League's top four and are sweating on the fitness of captain John Terry – so badly missed in Naples. With Lionel Messi as imperious as ever, Di Matteo's men would appear to have their work cut out.
Can Chelsea keep Barcelona at bay? Please post your thoughts, predictions and opinions below.
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