As his players prepare to take on FC Barcelona, Chelsea FC manager Guus Hiddink warned there will not be too many more chances for some of them to realise their ambition of a UEFA Champions League winners' medal.
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As his players prepare to remove FC Barcelona from their path towards a second successive UEFA Champions League final, Chelsea FC manager Guus Hiddink has warned that there will not be many more opportunities for them to realise their ambition of a winners' medal.
With this their fifth semi-final in Europe's most prestigious competition in six seasons, it is tempting to assume Chelsea now have a season ticket to the business end of the UEFA Champions League. However, only one of those previous ties has been won and even then the London club lost the final. Interim manager Hiddink, whose spell at the club will come to an end after the FA Cup final later this month, is only too aware that the clock is ticking and Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Nicolas Anelka are all now in their thirties.
Chelsea desperately hope this will be their year and that there will not be further disappointment to compound the agonies they suffered in last year's showpiece in Moscow, when the trophy was seemingly within their grasp in the penalty shoot-out only for Manchester United FC to prevail. "It is obvious that [Chelsea] are good and that the players have a lot of desire," said Hiddink, whose charges claimed a 3-1 derby win against Fulham FC on Saturday. "They have proved that in previous Champions Leagues but these players don't have five or six more years to take these chances. This will be one of the last occasions for many players to get to where they want to go."
'Intelligence and emotion'
If Chelsea thought they had done the hard part in returning from the Camp Nou with a goalless draw, then Barcelona's 6-2 defeat of Real Madrid CF at the weekend will have reminded them just how potent Josep Guardiola's team can be, even away from home. Hiddink admits he enjoyed the spectacle and is full of praise for the way the Catalan club retain their attacking philosophy, but insists this will be a different game to the one that silenced the Santiago Bernabéu. "We must play both with intelligence and emotion." he added. "Barcelona are the top team in Europe and you have to play with intelligence because the slightest error will be punished. On the other hand you must not play without emotion because that would put a brake on your performance. If you can combine the two you should have a very good game."
Chelsea believe the absence of both the injured Rafael Márquez and the suspended Carles Puyol from the heart of the visitors' defence offers them a way to get at Barça. Guardiola is likely to switch Eric Abidal into the centre to play alongside Gerard Piqué, with Sylvinho coming in at left-back. Barcelona also have serious concerns over Thierry Henry, who injured a knee against Madrid, but Guardiola is nevertheless confident his team can rise to the occasion. "We have a marvellous chance to get to the final and that's what me and the squad will be dreaming about," he said. "I genuinely feel we have a great chance and I will pick a team to go out and win the game."