Awed at the prospect of playing in "the best Champions League semi-final I could ever imagine", Frank Lampard hopes that Chelsea FC will have no more heartbreak as they aim to get to the final at FC Barcelona's expense.
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Even if Frank Lampard were not about to lead Chelsea FC in their UEFA Champions League semi-final against FC Barcelona, he would still be transfixed by the prospect of what lies ahead over the next week.
A veteran of six games between the powerful and resilient Chelsea and the more delicate but brilliantly-skilled Barcelona, Lampard believes the tie epitomises top-level European football. "When the draw paired us with Barça, so long as we could defeat Liverpool [FC], I just felt that was the best Champions League semi-final I could ever imagine," the free-scoring midfielder told uefa.com. "The aura of their stadium and playing against a Barça side who always try for beautiful football – it's just an amazing experience, and every time they come to Stamford Bridge it's an explosion. But, by the same token, this game will be as hard as you can get. I think it's well-known in the football world that for the last six months Lionel Messi has been out on his own, by a distance, the best player there is. When you play Barça, if you are not on top of your game, then Messi, Xavi [Hernández] and [Andrés] Iniesta will be on top of you."
It was back in September that Lampard, drawing on the pain of losing last season's Moscow final on penalties to Manchester United FC, told uefa.com: "I don't think I've ever felt such determination to get somewhere and win, as I do now about the Champions League." He is a man of his word: three goals, five assists, plus displays oozing leadership and character, have taken the 2008 runners-up through some fiery encounters – particularly in Turin, against Juventus, and Liverpool. "Collective spirit and determination have been key parts of getting this far," agreed Lampard ahead of Tuesday's first leg in the Catalan capital.
The 30-year-old England international places positive emphasis on the fact he and his team are in their fifth semi-final of the last six seasons – with Barcelona accounting for their only failure to reach the last four since 2004. Although he admits there is a delicate balance between motivation and fear of failure, Chelsea will use previous disappointments to spur them on against Josep Guardiola's side. Ask him if constantly falling just short is annoying, hurtful, a source of determination or a curse, and he says: "There is a little bit of all those things. We crave success and we have basically achieved everything else domestically.
"I know what you mean when you say cursed, because the more years you are very close and it doesn't happen, you feel: Will I ever get there? And you all start to get that bit older. But the main fuel is determination. You don't feel it all the time but in big games like against Liverpool, when you know you could be going out, that's when it really kicks in." With a goal every other game against Barcelona, including his career favourite in a 2-2 Camp Nou draw two seasons ago, Lampard poses a real threat to the tournament favourites. And he is very, very determined.