Champions League Betting: Chelsea v Barcelona

When these two were paired against each other, there was only one thing that came to mind. Rewind back to Champions League 2009, at this very stage in the competition. Stamford Bridge was the venue, and Chelsea were heading through to the final – only for Andrés Iniesta to score in injury time and send Barcelona through on away goals.

There was more to that night, including severe criticism of the officiating, but the image of Iniesta whipping his shirt off and being chased by his team mates is everlasting. The clubs meet again here, with many sources stressing revenge.

Roberto Di Matteo has the task of making sure that emotions don’t get the better of his players, and instead they approach the game fully prepared, and focused. The Italian has done fine work at the London club since taking charge, and has not only steered them into calmer waters.

Di Matteo’s work on Chelsea’s defence has been key, working with a deeper system rather than a high-line. They may still be far from where they’d like to be domestically, but signs of improvement are there. They’ll need to be tough here, so Branislav Ivanovic to get a yellow card at 3.20 is generous.

In this competition, Chelsea only just scraped past Napoli, requiring a strong performance at Stamford Bridge to ditch out the Italians. They have however, opened the scoring in each of their 10 Champions League games this season, and have never been beaten at Stamford Bridge in a semi-final, with three wins and two draws. Juan Mata will be a key feature for the hosts and his weaving between the lines and from deep brings the likes of Daniel Sturridge into play from wide areas. The Spaniard could have a big say on this one, with the versatility and intelligence he provides.

Didier Drogba’s performance against Spurs offered a reminder of the damage he can do, and his experience will be vital. He’s at 9.00 to score a header, which could be value as Chelsea will look to swing in plenty of crosses.

This, of course isn’t an individual effort, and Chelsea will need to be a rigorous collective unit to topple the Catalans. David Luiz misses this one after getting injured at the weekend. You can get on Chelsea at 4.75 to win this game.

Barcelona come into the game in devastating form, both domestically and in the Champions League. It’s of course what you’d expect, but the level of consistency is as truly admirable. In La Liga they’ve managed 11 straight victories as they chase Real Madrid, while in the Champions League they’ve managed to lose not once and hammer 33 goals in across 10 matches. When it comes to Pep Guardiola’s men, it’s difficult to avoid the statistics.

They were offered a serious test when drawn with Milan in the previous round, but after a testing first leg at the San Siro when the Italians set their stall out, Barça countered to win 3-1 in the second leg at Camp Nou. Previously, a 10-2 aggregate destruction of Bayer Leverkusen offered little in the way of a real test. Lionel Messi produced his magic against both, and now has 14 goals in this season’s competition as well as 4 assists. He’s never scored against Chelsea though – Messi’s at 1.60 to score tonight, and a decent 2.20 to not do so.

Barça have been labelled as overly ponderous in attack this season, failing to be decisive in key areas of the field and allowing other teams to come back into games. It’s something which has troubled Guardiola at certain points this season that they need to be more ruthless. 

The defence is Guardiola’s biggest concern however; Gerard Piqué’s loss of form, Éric Abidal’s horrendous off-field story and a general lack of continuity have hindered a previously fierce backline. They’ll likely have Carles Puyol at left-back here, an area Chelsea might target. Javier Mascherano, holder come centre-back, has been a plus becoming a colossal presence in times of strife. Seydou Keita and Ibrahim Afellay are included in the squad. Abidal and David Villa are absentees.

Overall, the tie is set up superbly to replicate the drama and intrigue of 2009’s showdown. Chelsea will of course be hoping this time around, it goes their way.

PREDICTION: Barça to win 0-1 at 7.75

BEST BET: Under 1.5 goals at 3.80