Ahead of the second leg of Chelsea's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, Dominic Fifield fields your questions on the match
Roberto Di Matteo is sounding confident of his team's chances of making it through to the Champions League final, having reached their sixth semi-final in nine years. Chelsea hold a narrow advantage going into their second leg tie against Barcelona, who will be smarting from their defeat to Real Madrid in Saturday's El Clásico.
Our London football correspondent Dominic Fifield joined us to discuss the match. The webchat is now over - thanks to all who took part. We have posted questions Dominic responded to here to make it easier to follow. Comments have now been closed on this article.
Of the probable Chelsea team tonight, only Cech, Terry and Cahill played the full 90 minutes at the weekend. By comparison, almost all the likely Barcelona starters featured against Real Madrid. Could that extra rest prove a decisive factor?
Logic would suggest it would have some kind of bearing on the way the game goes, though I guess the reality that Barcelona will hog the ball for most of tonight means they will be using up less energy than Chelsea, who will be chasing to retrieve it. Guardiola, perhaps inevitably, denied it would be a factor saying physical fatigue would not be an issue for the second leg of a Champions League semi-final. Mental fatigue, he conceded, might be another matter. But I'd imagine the adrenalin will be pumping for both sides for most of the evening.
Chelsea's humble attitude going into the first leg laid the foundation for victory. They have been less modest since that win and their confidence can be heard from all corners of the camp. Will this be detrimental in their approach to containing Barcelona tonight?
Do you think? I got the impression they were remaining fairly grounded, generally speaking, after last week's win. Both Di Matteo and Cech were like stuck records last night about how difficult it was all going to be. I think there's enough realism about them to ensure there's no complacency this evening: they know it's going to be a very, very difficult night ahead.
Did Chelsea get 'lucky' in the first leg? Did the media get hyped up over nothing? After all, Barcelona didn't play badly at all in the first leg, they just failed to score, any other night and the would have gone in.
And now, after their loss to Real Madrid people are even saying this Barcelona dynasty is over! What do you see the final outcome being tonight?
Lucky in the sense that Barcelona missed some presentable chances and struck the woodwork twice. Chelsea were more ruthless and clinical in front of goal – one shot, one goal etc – which are admirable qualities, and completely necessary if you are to compete with a team as incisive as Barca. As for the media hype, I think everyone has to be excited when a team as good as Barca is beaten. It felt like an event, after all, just as it did on Saturday when Mourinho's Real won here (that, I guess, is a recognition of Barcelona's quality more than anything else).
I don't buy the 'end of a dynasty' suggestions that are being mooted in some quarters over here – sounds a bit like an overly optimistic line probably peddled from Madrid – and Chelsea clearly have to be wary of a backlash this evening. If Barca score early, they boast the ability to run riot. But the longer Chelsea can frustrate them, and stifle them – or as long as Barca keep spurning their opportunities – the more anxiety there will be among the locals, and that might offer the visitors their own chances to exploit.
One intrigueing detail to Chelsea is the presence in their squad of La Masia alumnus Oriol Romeu, whose playing-time has been limited since AVB's departure - is there any possibility that he might end up back @ Barcelona next season?
A lot would depend upon the identity of Chelsea's new permanent manager, and his ideas about how the team should progress. But there is a recognition within the club's hierarchy that Romeu represents a key part of Chelsea's future – he's young, confident and comfortable on the ball, still learning and adapting to the Premier League but generally impressive when called upon – and it would surprise me if they allowed him to return to Barcelona, or move on anywhere else, come the summer. Of course, if he perceives he has not had enough games or is pining for a return home, then he could agitate but there have been no indications as yet that he's thinking along those lines. He hasn't played as significant a role under Di Matteo as he did under Villas-Boas, certainly, but the interim first-team coach has rather returned to the tried and tested old guard with everything resorting to short-term pragmatism. Romeu still represents the future.
Whats the team news? What is happening with Drog, Messi, Pique? What do you reckon both teams lineup will be tonight?
I went as follows in the newspaper this morning...
Barcelona (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol; Xavi Hernandez, Busquets, Iniesta; Alexis Sanchez, Messi, Fabregas.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Mikel; Mata, Meireles, Ramires; Drogba.
Guess there's an argument for including Kalou somewhere in the Chelsea line, maybe for Meireles or Lampard, but I think Di Matteo will probably stick to the side who edged it last week.
On Daniel Taylor's preview, he says the following:
"His [Guardiola's] assertion is that Chelsea should be considered favourites. Di Matteo put it at "50-50". The more realistic interpretation would be in favour of the home side, maybe 65-35."
I think that's foolish talk. i'm going 58-42 barca. what's your percentage allocation? that's what we all NEED to know.
It's always 72-28, isn't it? They seem to be the numbers of the moment involving Barcelona.......
Hello Dominic. Many Barcelona fans believe the way Chelsea won the first leg more than makes up for the arguable decisions in the 2008 semi-final. Which was worse in your eyes? A referee possibly making mistakes or Chelsea diving and acting to win the game?
Any refereeing decision is going to be open to some level of interpretation. The diving, play-acting issue is more complicated: Drogba drew the focus from the first leg, but have there not been incidents in the past where similar accusations have been made against Barcelona players (Busquets rings a bell, for example)? Regardless, I'm not sure Drogba's perceived theatrics explain why Chelsea won the game last week. It might have broken up the flow as far as Barcelona were concerned, but their defeat owed more to profligacy in front of goal, and one moment of sloppy defending.
As unlikely as it is, could a Chelsea triumph in the competition prove detrimental to the club longer term? We have seen that the board have not been particularly proficient at building the team for the long term. Would a big shiny trophy risk distracting them from the work that needs to be done at the club?
It might provide them with an ideal opportunity to start afresh, no? They can thank the old guard for supplying them with the trophy for which they've been pining, then move on and build a new team, recruiting players for the reigning European champions and a team that will be competing again in the Champions League next season. It might prove a natural finale in some of the players' eyes too, of course. They could depart with a sense that their mission had been accomplished, and could concentrate on securing one last lucrative pay day in China / the Middle-east / Paris / MLS (take your pick etc etc).
Then again, they might just appoint the next bright young thing in European coaching, be puzzled as to why things aren't going swimmingly by Christmas next season, then panic around February time with the team on the fringe of the Champions League qualification places and ask Roberto di Matteo to take over again. Anything feels possible with this club.
I don't know much about this referee - is he up to the task?
He's described as "one of Turkey's most promising match officials" who has "enjoyed a rapid rise up the ladder" in the Uefa hand-outs for the game. Works in insurance, apparently. This is his first knock-out tie in the Champions League, so it's presumably a daunting occasion for him, but we'll see.
To quote Petr Cech from last night: "The referee can be a big part of the game. You could see that in the past. There were great games between us and Barcelona but there was controversy which was a shame, overshadowing the great games on the pitch. We have an experienced Turkish referee and if you have had the experience of refereeing Galatasaray against Fenerbahce in the Turkish league, a game between Chelsea and Barcelona should not be a problem. The referee will have the same professional approach as we had in the first game, which was without controversy."
Ramires or Sturridge...? I don't know for me Ramires is dependable but Sturridge has more flair
It has to be Ramires, surely. The two players are not really comparable in terms of what they offer the team, even if they both been employed at times in an advanced role on the right of a three-man attacking midfield. But the Brazilian offers so much energy and industry going forward and in defence - see his assist for Drogba's goal, and his work-rate in attempting to quell Dani Alves in the first leg at Stamford Bridge - that he has to play. Indeed, along with Juan Mata and possibly Branislav Ivanovic, he would have to be a contender for Chelsea's most consistent performer this season.
The same cannot be said of Sturridge. He showed flashes of his quality before Christmas, scoring goals and excelling even away from his favoured central striking berth, but he has rather faded in recent months. There is an issue, clearly, in terms of how selfish he can appear in possession which frustrates his team-mates (and the crowd at times). But he's young and still learning, and will surely be granted more opportunities in time.
Will Roman Abramovich offer RDM the job even if Chelsea fail to progress to the final this evening?
Di Matteo is doing all he can to make himself a contender for the permanent position, certainly. His record is outstanding to date: 14 games, 10 wins, three draws and a solitary loss. But I think there's an acceptance that Chelsea clicked into crisis management mode back in the first week of March when they sacked Villas-Boas. Di Matteo is still performing a salvage operation (albeit a very good one). The job description come the summer will most likely be very, very different. I'd like to think he'll be considered, though my suspicion is the owner may seek a name with more clout (again) and retain Di Matteo somehow in some capacity on the coaching staff.
Hi Dominic, what are the chances that Didier Drogba will enliven proceedings with his 'I've been breathed on by a gnat' roll-a-thon with a side serving of screwed-up painface-fest? And what are the chances he will score a blinder from 30 yards wiping away all shame and disgust?
Ha. He clearly has the capacity to do both. I thought the first half of the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur the other week neatly summed up Didier Drogba these days. He was off the pace and clumsy in possession for long periods, getting frustrated on the periphery and starting to wave his arms frantically at his team-mates for starving him of decent delivery. He'd air-kicked his first decent sight of goal from a punt down-field. I think he was booked, too, for a challenge that summed up how exasperated he was becoming. Then, out of that mess of a personal performance, he takes Frank Lampard's long pass on his chest, prods the ball to his right and rolls off William Gallas before battering that left-footed volley beyond Carlo Cudicini. He's always capable of that, as Barcelona will be all too aware.
How much of a role do you think the home support will have in this game? They seem to have become used to methodical hammerings of their opponents when they come to the Nou Camp. They didn't seem to know how to react in this weekend's Clasico when they were twice behind. Perhaps a little extra support could have lifted a deflated team and led them to getting a result out of the game? It might be a factor in tonight's game if they don't get an early goal.
There were a few people saying the atmosphere had been rather 'flat' at the weekend, citing weariness creeping in on and off the pitch. Or resignation. Not sure which. I suspect it'll be a different story tonight, though, not that that will particularly unnerve Chelsea. Most of this team have played at Camp Nou before and will know what to expect. I quite liked Gary Cahill's admission over the weekend that his only previous visit was as a 10-year-old tourist... but he'll have John Terry, Ashely Cole, Petr Cech and Branislav Ivanovic alongside him to guide him through what'll no doubt be an awkward evening.
I'm sure the locals will get behind the side - back-to-back European Cups, and three in four years - would be an astonishing achievement for Guardiola and his side, and might overshadow Real winning the Primera Liga (particularly if they went on to beat Mourinho's team in the final), so they'll recognise this as a moment to back their team.
You didn't watch him on saturday. We sold a player called Jack Cork who will have a better career than him.
Romeu? I thought he was tidy enough on Saturday, though I take the point that he was recruited, at (not massive, but still £4.35m) expense, from abroad when players like Jack Cork (quite possibly back in the Premier League next year) and even Josh McEachran haven't had much of a look-in. The management clearly deemed Romeu likely to have more of a prolonged impact at a club near the top of the Premier League. Cork will have a chance to show his qualities in the top-flight every week next year at Southampton, should they beat Coventry at the weekend. Then he can prove Chelsea wrong for letting him leave.
Do you think it's a better idea to start with Torres instead of Drogba in this match? Chelsea could try and score early (going by Torres' record against Barcelona) and then shut the match out by bringing on Drogba and playing like they did in the first leg.
It's not inconceivable, though the way Drogba seemed to unsettle Barcelona last week would suggest he's the more likely starter. I'd actually thought there was a good chance Torres would begin at Stamford Bridge, having been left out of the Tottenham Hotspur FA Cup semi-final, and Chelsea would seek to exploit the space behind Barca's high defensive line. That hunch proved as accurate as ever... He might have more joy here, particularly if the game stays goalless (or level of aggregate) and Barca push ever higher in search of a winner, leaving more space to exploit at their back. He does boast a great scoring record against Barcelona, and at Camp Nou in particular (there were a couple of braces in the mid-2000s here with Atletico Madrid), but it should be said that that was then, this is now. I'm not sure his performance at Arsenal on Saturday really merits his inclusion from the start tonight. If the game becomes stretched, then he may have a decent impact as a substitute.
[Cue Torres to start and register a first half hat-trick of headers from close range.]
Dominic do you still think the game plan chelsea have in stamford bridge.will work at nou camp and dont you think chelsea have to score there.
The game plan can work again if they benefit from another hefty dose of good fortune (as Petr Cech admitted last night). But I agree they probably have to score this evening (as they did in the first leg). They are basically going to have to be utterly ruthless from any set-piece / clear-cut opportunity they eke out, and hope that Barcelona's radar is slightly awry because, clearly, the hosts are going to create plenty of chances.
I've been very lucky enough to cover a few games at Camp Nou when English clubs have come over in the Champions League. I've seen Liverpool win and draw here, and Chelsea draw here. But the Barca of the last few years have taken their game up to another level. My last two trips were with Arsenal when the Premier League club arrived first with a draw from the first leg and, on the second occasion, having won at the Emirates. Each time, in Camp Nou, they hinted at scoring - they took the lead in the first game, I think, and created chances in both games - but were far too open to stand any realistic chance of progress. Messi duly ran amok. I can't see Chelsea making the same mistakes. They'll rely on on work-rate and industry, and hope to squeeze one or two sights of goal from blanket Barcelona pressure. But they'll probably have more chance of progressing into the final playing like that than Arsenal did playing a far more attractive style.
Do you think it was a mistake to play Tello at the weekend, and will Sanchez start in his place tonight?
Guardiola didn't think so. He was full of praise for Tello's performance against Real. In saying that, I do think Alexis Sanchez will probably start tonight.....
Barca have had great difficulty breaking down well drilled
defences in the last two matches.Has their lack of a No.9
Wouldn't any team miss a David Villa? I suspect so. We shouldn't forget that the side created plenty of chances at Stamford Bridge, and would normally have expected to convert one or two of them, so that loss was no reason to panic. The criticism at the weekend seemed to be a lack of players able to run behind the Real back-line and unsettle the visiting defenders, with Messi forever dropping deeper himself in search of the ball. Sanchez and Fabregas might offer that threat tonight, if they start, just as they did in the first leg.
Does the tactical changes Pep made for his team selection against Real show that he is placing the Champions League above La Liga? I'm pretty sure it will be closer to the team selection of the first leg rather than el classico.
Maybe it was a necessity in terms of fitness with his players given the number of games at present, just as it was with Chelsea's selection at Arsenal. I'm not sure Guardiola could have written off the title prior to the weekend, particularly to Real and Mourinho. Even so, he might legitimately have considered the Champions League his most likely route to major silverware. I suspect he'll resort to something resembling his lineup from the first leg.
Is it true that Barca have never beaten Chelsea when they have had all 11 men on the pitch?
In the modern era, I believe that's the case. Del Horno was sent off at Stamford Bridge in 2006 when Barca won 2-1... Drogba at Camp Nou when Rijkaard's team won the first leg 2-1 the previous year... and Celestine Babayaro in the quarter-final back in 2000 when Barca retrieved a 3-1 first leg deficit to win the return 5-1 after extra-time. So, yes, by the look of things. Guardiola and Di Matteo played in that last match, too...
Dominic, you answered a question about fatigue with the response that Barca should account for the less rest by running less due to their "hogging of the ball."
Surely the pass and move philosophy of Barcelona, which requires constant running off the ball combined with high intensity vertical movement in transitions, combined with the high press after losing the ball, will be more tiring than Chelsea's simple lateral movement? Chelsea only need to shift their block of four and five in accordance to Barca's movements. Of course Chelsea will exert energy in their counter attack, but these are rare compared to the amount of passes, hence amount of movement, that Barca will do?
Further to the point, Barca constantly cover well beyond the most ground out of a lot of teams, as evidenced by several statistical outlets. Xavi has been substituted in three out of four of Barca's last games, and Guardiola has credited fatigue with this decision.
Completely take the point, but footballers always seem to argue that it's more exhausting chasing possession, even if you're merely flooding midfield or the back-line, than enjoying the pass and movement Barca seem to muster. Maybe it's psychological, but that's a common theme among them. Defensive discipline must be mentally tiring, I guess. Particularly if you know that one little lapse in concentration could let a Messi / Xavi / Iniesta / Alexis Sanchez / Fabregas in on goal. Mikel drifted off at one stage in the first leg, just for a split second, and Messi exploited his positioning in that blink of an eye. Anyway, we'll see. I suspect Chelsea's players may have the wearier limbs this time tomorrow...