16 Number of goals scored by Barca this season
CHELSEA manager Roberto di Matteo insists his side are good enough to win the Champions League as they prepare for 90 minutes that could define their season in Barcelona tonight.
A gutsy 1-0 win in last week’s semi-final first leg has given the Blues an outstanding chance of pulling off a major upset and pipping the holders to a place in next month’s Munich showpiece.
Barca, with the unique threat of 63-goal star Lionel Messi, remain odds-on favourites to overturn the deficit and reach the final, but Di Matteo is optimistic of progressing and making Chelsea history.
“We do have the qualities within this team,” said the Italian, who is adamant he will not set his team out to achieve a goalless draw. “I think we need away from home, as we’ve seen in the past, a bit of luck to be able to do well in a competition like this. But, certainly, the quality and the squad we have at Chelsea is very good.”
Striker Didier Drogba, whose goal decided last week’s clash in west London, is expected to shake off a knee niggle to start at Camp Nou, where Di Matteo believes his side will need to breach Barca again.
“I do think we’ll have to try and score a goal,” added the former Chelsea midfielder, who has won 10 and drawn three of 14 games since taking temporary charge. “That would give us a greater chance. I think it’ll be difficult just playing for a goalless draw.”
Di Matteo maintains he will not pick his team until today and emphasised he would readily risk players one booking away from a ban in the hope of ending Barca’s quest to become the first to retain the Champions League.
“I don’t think we can be thinking about that in the game tomorrow,” he said. “The players will be playing fully focused on their task and their responsibilities in the game. We cannot speculate on the bookings.”
Chelsea won plaudits more for their resolve than artistry in the first leg, but Di Matteo defended his pragmatic approach against a team who have scored 168 goals and won three trophies already this term.
“You have to utilise the strengths of your players, and see what the weakness of the opposition is,” he said. “I respect other people’s opinion, but I disagree.”
Barca manager Pep Guardiola insisted Messi would be fit despite missing training on Sunday and robustly rejected suggestions his team would struggle to cope with a third pivotal match in seven days.
“Leo had a gastric issue, the doctor saw him and he called us before the training session to say he wouldn’t be coming in, but now he’s okay,” said Guardiola, whose men lost to arch-rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.
“Tomorrow there’s no tiredness in the legs. Maybe in the mind, but, in the semi-final of a Champions League, no matter if we play three days ago or yesterday, we’ll be ready to try to reach the final.”
Tonight’s result has huge repercussions not just for Di Matteo’s job, but also for Chelsea’s hopes of playing in this competition next season. They lie sixth in the Premier League, four points off a top-four spot.
“It would be a catastrophe to miss out on the Champions League,” said striker Fernando Torres.