Champions League semi-final first leg – Kick-off: 19-45 (BST)
Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola was in a relaxed mood ahead of his side’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Chelsea.
Although Barcelona were eliminated by Manchester United in last season’s semi-final and have failed to win in their past four home ties against English sides, Guardiola appeared unconcerned by the prospect of facing Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea side.
“I’m as happy as a little boy with a new pair of shoes,” said the 38-year-old. “I don’t know if this moment can ever be repeated. The world will be watching, we are playing football which gives me joy and pride and I have 100 per cent faith in my squad. The tie will only be settled in London but we will try and play at our top level, with intensity and quick, decisive passing.”
Barca, with 29 goals, are the leading scorers in the Champions League this season, and they reached their third semi-final in four years via aggregate 6-3 and 5-1 defeats of Lyon and Bayern Munich. Guardiola does not believe that the challenged posed by Chelsea will affect the way he sets out his side tonight.
“Chelsea might be a little more physical and a little more direct than most sides we’ve played, but teams regularly try to counterattack us with speed and power,” he claimed. “It will be crucial to keep our shape and attack in an ordered fashion.”
Barça have all their key players fit with both Rafael Marquez and Yaya Toure likely to return having been rested in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Valencia.
“In any season when you are playing well you reach a decisive moment, the moment of truth. This is one and we are playing a legendary team – I know it will be very tough,” Guardiola added.
Chelsea arrive at the Camp Nou with first choice left-back Ashley Cole suspended, but their coach Guus Hiddink believes that containing this Lionel Messi-inspired side is a job for the entire team, not just Cole’s likely replacement José Bosingwa.
“I have watched Barça for many years because I like their attacking philosophy,” said the Dutchman who has coached Spanish sides Valencia, Real Madrid and Real Betis.
“Of course I’ve seen and studied the way Barca destroyed the Bayern defence in the quarter-final first leg and overran Bayern all over the pitch. My team must start with total concentration because we can’t and won’t let Barça do that to us.”
Hiddink is also without Ricardo Carvalho, Deco and long-term absentees Joe Cole and Paulo Ferreira, though he does have Barcelona’s winning goalscorer from the 2006 UEFA Champions League final, Juliano Belletti, available.
“Maybe he knows a little secret which can give us a tiny advantage,” joked Hiddink.
Barcelona and Chelsea are meeting for the fifth time in the Champions League.
Chelsea progressed twice; in the 2004-05 and 2006-07 seasons. The Catalans beat the Londoners 5-1 after extra time in the 1999-2000 quarter-finals after losing the away match 3-1 in London. Barca’s Carles Puyol is the only remaining player from those two encounters, although Barca’s current coach Josep Guardiola played in the second leg.