"Worryingly for Mourinho and his charges, Chelsea’s record at the Nou Camp is fairly dismal."
There’s sure to be plenty of excitement, incident and controversy when Chelsea visit Barcelona for the second leg of their Champions League second round tie this Tuesday (March 7).
The Catalans hold a 2-1 lead from the first leg at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago, and must be heavy favourites to progress to the quarter finals. Chelsea go into the Nou Camp cauldron knowing that they need to score at least twice to have any chance of making the last eight, and face the unenviable task of trying to keep the likes of Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto’o, Deco and Lionel Messi at bay on their home ground in front of a passionate crowd.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho made the cauldron a good deal hotter for himself with his comments following the first leg defeat. He blamed the loss on everyone but himself and his players, with Messi coming in for severe criticism from the Portuguese for his part in the dismissal of Asier Del Horno. A section of the Barcelona faithful have taken exception to this stance from their former assistant boss, as once again matters off the field threaten to overshadow those on it ahead of a big game. Mourinho was treated to some local hostility when he arrived in the city on Monday (March 6), when one irate fan spat in his direction as he sat on the team coach.
Avoiding flying phlegm is not Mourinho’s only problem. Once clear of the baying hordes he must formulate a plan to over-turn the first leg deficit. That plan looks likely to include key midfield man Frank Lampard who missed the 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at the weekend with a hamstring injury. Lampard’s role will be all the more important in the continued absence through suspension of Michael Essien.
In Del Horno’s enforced absence William Gallas looks set to be given the job of taking care of Messi. Not a natural left-back, Gallas will nevertheless provide Chelsea with adequate cover in that position as they seek to starve the Barca match-winners of opportunities to shine. Paulo Ferreirra will continue at right-back, with competition for his starting role disappearing the moment Glen Johnson turned up at the airport without a passport.
Messi enjoyed a rest during Barcelona’s last match in La Liga, a 3-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna, and returns to try to put paid to Chelsea’s European dream for another year. Barca coach Frank Rijkaard has no other fresh injury concerns for the tie, and will be looking to Messi, Ronaldinho and company to score at least once to make Mourinho and Chelsea’s task almost impossible.
Worryingly for Mourinho and his charges, Chelsea’s record at the Nou Camp is fairly dismal. They have lost on all four of their previous visits, and have been outscored by a massive 14-2 during that run of defeats. In fact, Barca have lost only once at home to English opposition, when Liverpool pulled off a shock 1-0 win during the 1975/76 UEFA Cup which they went on to win. In addition, the Primera Liga champions have not lost a European tie on home soil for almost three years, since Juventus won 2-1 at the Nou Camp in April 2003.
A similar result for Chelsea would take the tie into extra time, but it is difficult to see how it can be achieved. Mourinho’s much publicised antics at The Hawthorns on Saturday (March 4) are a sure sign that he is starting to feel that the world is against him. We witnessed last season how this persecution complex can lead to an implosion from his side, as they crashed out of last season’s Champions League to the supposedly inferior Liverpool at the semi-final stage.
Rijkaard’s silky outfit pose far more of an attacking threat than the Merseysiders ever could, and should earn at least the draw that would take them through the quarter finals at the expense of the English champions.
Verdict; Barcelona 1 Chelsea 1