• Full-back stirs memories of 2009 Champions League semi-final
• Chelsea and Barcelona meet again in last four of competition
• Sid Lowe interviews Dani Alves
The Barcelona defender Dani Alves has risked opening old wounds before tomorrow's Champions League semi-final first leg with Chelsea after claiming the Catalans' controversial victory over the Blues three years ago owed less to the performance of the referee, Tom Henning Ovrebo, and more to the Premier League team lacking courage, being gripped by fear and playing long-ball football.
Barça return to Stamford Bridge to confront a Chelsea team still heavily reliant on the key figures of that 1-1 semi-final draw in May 2009. Twelve of the 18 players in the London club's match day squad then overseen by Guus Hiddink, and beaten on away goals that night, remain at the club and will be eager to exact revenge on the reigning European champions.
Memories of Ovrebo's erratic performance still linger, the Norwegian official having turned down four plausible penalty appeals from Chelsea. Yet Alves, in an interview with the Guardian, said Barcelona's progress – secured courtesy of Andrés Iniesta's stoppage-time equaliser once the visitors had been reduced to 10 men – owed more to Chelsea's failings. "There is no doubt that was the hardest game we have played, with everything that was at stake, the moment and everything that happened," Alves said. "People say Chelsea could have won but for the referee but that is not our problem. We do not control the referees. We are there to play football, to compete and to try to reach the final. What can we do about the referee?
"Chelsea did not reach the final because of fear. The team that has got a man more, is playing at home and winning should have attacked us more. But of course, if you don't have that [attacking] concept of football that Barcelona have, you stay back and you get knocked out. You have to go forward. Stay back: losers. Go forward: winners. I think Chelsea lacked the courage to take a step forward and attack us. They paid for it."
Alves admitted Barcelona's players were surprised Chelsea had not played with more attacking ambition after Eric Abidal's dismissal and that they drew encouragement from their hosts' approach. "At that moment we realised they had renounced the game," he said. "We realised that at 1-0 they were satisfied but they forgot that at 1-1 we were through and that is what happened. All they did is get the ball and get rid of it. Ball here, hit it long; ball there, hit it long! They never took that step forward. In other words they gifted us possession. And the worst thing you can do with Barcelona is give them possession."
Chelsea go into this week's match with Barça – which will be refereed by the German Felix Brych, who oversaw their eye-catching second-leg success over Napoli last month – unbeaten in their last five matches against the Catalans and bolstered by nine victories from Roberto Di Matteo's 12 games in charge, even if Sunday's 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semi-final came at a cost. David Luiz will not feature against Barça after damaging a hamstring in the build-up to Spurs' goal while the Premier League club will continue to monitor the fitness of Didier Drogba (hamstring), Ashley Cole (ankle) and Ryan Bertrand (calf). Gary Cahill, who had been struggling with a foot injury, trained as normal yesterday and is expected to fill in for David Luiz.
The defender underwent a scan on his thigh on Monday and Chelsea fear the injury could keep him out of action at a key stage of the season. But they will benefit from the return of Branislav Ivanovic, in the midst of a three-match domestic suspension after being charged with violent conduct, at right-back against the Catalans.
Drogba, whose furious post-match reaction to Ovrebo's performance in 2009 earned him a three-game ban by Uefa, is confident he will be able to play as his contract at Stamford Bridge edges towards conclusion this summer. "It was a few years ago, so things have changed, but the desire is the same," said the Ivorian. "The desire to beat them is the same. It's going to be tough but we're ready. We don't just have bad memories of games against them. We have some good memories as well against Barcelona. It will be tight, even if they are said to be the best team in the world, and they have the best player in the world (in Lionel Messi). But these are two games and anything can happen."
The forward might once have been joined by Alves at Stamford Bridge, the Brazilian having been a target for Jose Mourinho back in the summer of 2007 before moving to Barca from Sevilla. The full-back's aim is to remain with Pep Guardiola's side, but he would not rule out a move to England at some stage in the future. "I don't think it would have been harder for me in England," Alves said. "I am a player who finds it easy to adapt to the circumstances and I don't think I would have had a problem adapting to England. I would have had to defend a little bit more than attack but, just as I adapted to being a full-back and the concept of football here, I would have done so there.
"If one day I had to play in [England] I would attempt to change. I would also try to change the concept of full-backs they have there: that idea that the full back only has to defend. You always have to leave the doors open because we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. But I am at the best club in the world and when you reach that level you want to stay there. But you stay open to [options] because in football you serve a purpose for as long as you are delivering and, if the coach no longer depends on you, then you don't serve a purpose anymore and you have to look elsewhere."