Chelsea will be attempting to return to the Champions League again next year by winning it this season. It doesn’t look like there’s any other way to qualify for Europe’s top tournament unless they catch fire from here until the end of the season and capture fourth spot in the English Premier League. They have a tough job ahead of them if they are going to take the title this season as they open their two-legged tie at home at Stamford Bridge against reigning champions Barcelona on April 18.
Chelsea is currently in sixth place in the EPL with 57 points which is two behind fourth-place Tottenham and fifth-place Newcastle. They do have 15 points left to play for though as they have five regular season games left to play. They have a lot on their plate though. Along with the Champions League and the EPL, they also smoked Tottenham 5-1 on Sunday in an FA Cup semi final and will meet Liverpool in the Cup Final at Wembley on May 5.
The team has responded well to interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, who was given the job after Andre Villas-boas was fired several weeks ago. However, Di Matteo realizes that his squad with have to play two flawless games if they’re going to knock Barcelona out and make it to the Champions League Final in Munich, Germany on May 19 against Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.
Barcelona is stacked with several star players, but the man they’ll have to keep their eye on will naturally be Lionel Messi of Argentina, who has over 60 goals in all competitions so far this year with 14 of them coming in the Champions League.
Di Matteo hopes his players will want to prove they can compete with the best in the world and will use their experience to slow down Spain’s second-place La Liga team. However, it looks like Chelsea may have to play without defender David Luiz, who could miss both legs against Barcelona. Luiz is reportedly suffering from a hamstring injury. On the bright side, defender Branislav Ivanovic will be allowed to play even though he’s serving a three-game suspension in the EPL.
Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola knows his team can’t be overconfident going into the game as Chelsea has a lot of Champions League experience. He said his players will have to focus on the task at hand and not worry about trying to catch Real Madrid for first place in the Spanish league. Barcelona should have Gerard Pique, Dani Alves, Ibrahim Afellay, and Seydou Keita in the squad.
Chelsea came close to knocking Barcelona out of the Champions League back in 2009 and likely would have done so if it wasn’t for some dubious refereeing decisions. Andres Iniesta managed to score a last-minute goal at Stamford Bridge in that cup tie to see them go through with a 1-1 away draw.
Chelsea has won all five Champions League games this season and has allowed just two goals. This is their sixth semi-final appearance in the last nine seasons. Chelsea has the experience on their side, but these players are getting older and slower. If Di Matteo injects some youngsters such as Daniel Sturridge in the line-up they could win this match by a goal.
Sportsbook WilliamHill.com has the latest odds of a Chelsea victory listed at 4/1 with a Barcelona win at 8/11and a draw at 5/2. Get free bets through the banner at the top.