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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 October 2018

Desperate for trophies, Chelsea are dangerous opponents for Barcelona in must-win Champions League game

History suggests Lionel Messi's team will take visiting London side very seriously in second leg of last-16 tie

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi will be up against familiar foes in Chelsea. David Klein / Reuters
Barcelona’s Lionel Messi will be up against familiar foes in Chelsea. David Klein / Reuters

Barcelona against Chelsea is a modern rivalry.

The teams had never met before this century and the Catalans had played 11 different English teams in the last century. Yet since the turn of the millennium, Barca have played Chelsea more times than any other club in European competition with 13 games since 2000.

Barca and Real Madrid maybe considered football’s pre-eminent club sides of the century so far with four Uefa Champions League wins each. Yet Chelsea hold a better record against the Catalans who have beaten them only three times in those 13 games.

Not only that, Lionel Messi took until his ninth attempt to score against Chelsea, in the 1-1 first leg at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago.

Just as it was in that game, there is little to split the sides historically.

In their 13 meetings they have scored 19 goals against each other, they have also drawn six of them and none of the last eight game have been settled by more than one goal. Five of the last seven games have ended in a draw.

If it finishes 0-0 then Barca go through as they have an away goal, but Barca seldom do 0-0 European games at Camp Nou. They will attack as they always do and it is up to Chelsea, who are fifth in the Premier League, to withstand that force.

Paris Saint-Germain conceded six goals at the same stage there last season in football’s most dramatic game of 2017.

The pair are hardly friends either, an enmity ignited by Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side in a 2005 meeting at the last 16 stage. Barca won the home leg 2-1 and lost the second 4-2, in hugely controversial circumstances after referee Anders Frisk sent off Didier Drogba in the first leg.

Mourinho falsely accused the Swedish referee of inviting Barca manager Frank Rijkaard into his room at half time. Frisk and his family received death threats and he announced his retirement from football.

They met again at the same stage the following season, when both were champions of their respective countries. A vengeful Barca advanced 3-2 on aggregate after Chelsea’s Asier del Horno was controversially sent off in the first half after a foul on Messi.

The most memorable game between the clubs from the Barcelona perspective was the 2009 semi-final. After drawing the away leg 0-0 and leading 1-0 in the home leg thanks to a Michael Essien goal, Chelsea were about to reached a second successive final.

Andres Iniesta changed that when, set up by Messi, he scored a 93rd minute equaliser – and key away goal and their first shot on target in the game. Chelsea were furious, but Iniesta still rates it as the second greatest moment of his career after scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final.

Pep Guardiola’s Barca side beat Manchester United in the final as they became the best side in the world.

Chelsea would get their revenge three years later in the 2012 semi-final second leg when Fernando Torres, against the run of play, scored a 92nd-minute equaliser in Camp Nou, knocking out the holders and sending Chelsea through to a final and their first ever European Cup.

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Six years on, Chelsea are back at Camp Nou.

Barca’s players had a day off after their victory over bottom of the league Malaga which saw them maintain their eight points lead at the top of the table. With only 10 league games remaining, it would be a major surprise if Barca, who remain unbeaten all season in the league, did not lift the title. Ernesto Valverde’s side can afford to fully focus on the Champions League.

Chelsea, on the hand, need the cups to save their season.

Barca are aiming for an 11th straight quarter-final and they have only lost twice at home to English clubs in 32 games. Yet they are up against a Chelsea side who performed well in the first leg, a side who have tripped them up in Europe before, stopping them being their brilliant best.

It will be tough, but backed by 3,000 travelling fans in an expected 90,000 crowd, Barca are aiming to go through once more on Wednesday night.