The coaches of Barcelona and Chelsea are predicting a classic Cahmpions League encounter in front of a sell-out crowd at Camp Nou.
Although Frank Rijkaard and José Mourinho have had their fair share of disagreements in recent seasons, both managers agree that the their teams will combine to produce a spectacle tonight.
Victory for Chelsea would guarantee progress to the knockout stages, while defeat for Barcelona would leave them vulnerable to elimination at the hands of Werder Bremen.
Rijkaard said: “I haven’t thought about what situation we might be in if we lose but I’m certain that we are prepared, as usual, to demonstrate our ability in a pressurised game against very difficult opponents.
“Chelsea have quality in every position, and on the bench. However, their strength is the collective and even though our intention is to give our fans a spectacle, we have to face facts that Chelsea might have refined their playing style – they used to play with more pace in attack – but they remain very solid.”
Rijkaard received a boost with the news that Lionel Messi has recovered from the ankle injury picked up during the 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid eight days ago.
Mourinho should be able to select Didier Drogba and Andrii Shevchenko after both came through a training session at Camp Nou on Monday.
“All around the world people are hungry to see this game and my desire is that Chelsea and Barcelona give their very best and then we will have a fantastic game,” Mourinho said.
A 1-0 victory over the holders a fortnight ago means Chelsea top the group, although Mourinho was annoyed by the suggestion that his side might choose to help Bremen qualify in second ahead of Barcelona.
“Win, lose or draw against Barcelona, I will send my Chelsea team out to beat Bremen in the next match because my teams always play to win,” he added. “The first time I don’t feel that way, I’ll quit and go home.”
Víctor Valdés; Gianluca Zambrotta, Carles Puyol, Rafael Márquez, Giovanni van Bronckhorst; Xavi Hernández, Edmílson, Deco; Lionel Messi, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Ronaldinho.
Hilário; Khalid Boulahrouz, John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole; Claude Makelele; Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack; Andriy Shevchenko, Didier Drogba.