|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Barcelona out to dispel doubts against Chelsea
Simon Baskett | October 30, 2006 13:49 IST
But it will not just be prestige that is at stake when Barca meet their old foes as the Euorpean champions know that defeat could seriously jeopardise their chances of making a successful defence of their crown.
Barca are in joint second spot in Group A, level on four points with Werder Bremen and five behind Chelsea after their 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago and they need a win if they want to be sure of staying ahead of the Germans.
Frank Rijkaard's side have been a long way from their best in recent games and it took a dubious penalty to break the deadlock in their 3-0 victory over Recreativo Huelva on Saturday.
One positive aspect of the victory, however, was a sign of recovery from Ronaldinho who was a shadow of his former self in the defeats at Chelsea and Real.
The Brazilian netted the opening penalty and also scored a neat header to take his league tally for the season to five goals.
"It was an important victory for us," said Rijkaard. "I saw a significant improvement in the team which played much better as a unit.
"The Chelsea match will be a similar game because they are both well organised teams and it is vital to score first. Ronaldinho played a decisive role once again and it is important for us to look ahead now."
One of Barca's main problems this term has been the failure of new signings Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram to adapt at the back and Rijkaard may choose to use the more attacking Silvinho and Juliano Belletti in an attempt to stretch the Chelsea defence.
His other selection quandary is whether to keep faith with Eidur Gudjohnsen against his old club up front or opt for the more mobile Javier Saviola who has come back into the picture following the injury to leading striker Samuel Eto'o.
Argentine prodigy Lionel Messi, who strained an ankle against Real Madrid last week, trained normally on Sunday and should be in the starting line-up.
Chelsea's preparations have been hampered by injuries to first-choice strikers Andriy Shevchenko and Didier Drogba.
The Ukrainian missed Saturday's 2-0 league win at Sheffield United with a leg muscle problem, while Drogba, currently in superb form, was taken off at halftime with a foot problem sustained early in the game.
"Against Barcelona the first time we played without two keepers -- maybe it's time to play without two strikers and take the bus," said coach Jose Mourinho in reference to his famous description of the Tottenham Hotspur's defensive approach against Chelsea in his first season in charge.
Mourinho will be without first-choice keeper Petr Cech, out for months after brain surgery, and though Carlo Cudicini has returned to training after his own head injury, the coach seems likely to keep faith with Hilario.
The Portuguese keeper kept a clean sheet on his debut against Barcelona in the 1-0 Stamford Bridge win and has let in only one goal in three subsequent victories -- also saving a penalty on Saturday.
Barcelona: 1-Victor Valdes; 2-Juliano Belletti, 5-Carles Puyol, 4-Rafael Marquez, 12-Giovanni van Bronckhorst or 16-Silvinho; 6-Xavi, 15-Edmilson, 20-Deco; 19-Lionel Messi, 10-Ronaldinho, 7-Eidur Gudjohsen or 22-Javier Saviola
Chelsea: 40-Hilario; 20-Paulo Ferreira, 6-Ricardo Carvalho, 26-John Terry, 18-Wayne Bridge; 5-Mickael Essien, 4-Claude Makelele, 13-Michael Ballack, 8-Frank Lampard; 7-Andriy Shevchenko, 15-Dider Drogba
Referee: Stefano Farina (Italy)
(Additional reporting by Mitch Phillips in London)
UEFA Champions League 2006-07: The Complete Coverage