Barcelona vs. Chelsea: 7 Bold Predictions for Champions League Semifinal
Now we know the semifinal lineup for this season's Champions League, after the ties among the last eight passed by with a degree of excitement but no upsets.
In one semifinal, Real Madrid will take on Bayern Munich in a clash of two grand clubs who have won 13 European Cups between them.
The other tie pits holders Barcelona against Chelsea in a rematch of the 2009 semi which ended in such controversy.
Barca won the tie at the very last via a stunning strike from Andrea Iniesta. That goal came at the end of a second leg at Stamford Bridge in which Chelsea felt they were denied several, clear-cut penalties by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo.
While Chelsea may have regressed in the intervening period and Barca have gone on to achieve true greatness, the Anglo-Spanish reunion this season promises much.
Here are seven predictions of what might happen when the Blues face the Blaugrana over the next few weeks.
Lionel Messi Won't Score in England
Predictions don't come much bolder than claiming that Lionel Messi will not score in any given match.
In his 42 appearances for Barcelona this season, Messi has only failed to score in 13. In his last 11 games, he has scored 21 goals and only drew a blank in the first leg against Milan in that time.
But his last trip to play in England—the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley—was the first time Messi had scored on English soil in seven attempts.
Messi may be the best player in the world, but that statistic may be something for Chelsea to cling on to when they welcome Barca to west London on April 18.
Barcelona Won't Win at Stamford Bridge
For Lionel Messi's poor scoring record in England, read Barca's equally unfavourable record at Stamford Bridge.
In five previous Champions League visits to the home of Chelsea, Barca have only won once—a 2-1 win back in 2006 which featured an own goal from John Terry.
Iniesta's late goal on Barca's last visit won the tie in thrilling fashion, so much so that it's easy to forget it only sealed a 1-1 draw on the night, and the team's only shot on target.
Chelsea may not be the team they were three years ago, but they will go out of their way to stifle their illustrious visitors and, at the very least, make it interesting in the second leg.
Chelsea Will Lose at the Nou Camp
This one may not be such a bold prediction, but it's valid.
The Blues have never won a match in their five visits to Catalonia, although the team has drawn each of the their last three.
Barca may have had their troubles at times this season, but they are unbeaten at home in all competitions in this campaign since their shocking 2-0 defeat to Hercules in September 2010, in fact.
It's just as well Chelsea are playing their home leg first, because otherwise the tie would in all likelihood be over.
Didier Drogba Will Misbehave
If there is one thing you can rely upon in football, it's Didier Drogba getting up to some kind of mischief when Chelsea are eliminated from the Champions League, ensuring they exit the competition in disgrace.
In the aforementioned clash with Barca in 2009, Drogba had already been substituted when Iniesta's late clincher flew in. Enraged by his team being robbed of a place in the final, Drogba raged on the touchline before berating the officials and, looking straight into a camera, cried "It's a f****** disgrace!"
The Ivorian striker was handed a six-month European ban for his histrionics.
The following season, Drogba was sent off in the closing stages of Chelsea's quarterfinal tie against Inter, just as he had done in the final few minutes of the 2008 final as penalties approached.
The high-pressure cauldron of the Nou Camp and the intensity of the fixture might be enough to see Drogba get himself into trouble once again.
There Will Be a Refereeing Controversy
The last meeting between these two sides was made infamous by the performance of referee Tom Henning Ovrebo. The Norwegian referee and his team of officials declined to give Chelsea a penalty despite them having several strong appeals for one.
Last season, Arsenal's hopes of eliminating Barca were greatly damaged by Hungarian Viktor Kassai sending off Robin van Persie at the Nou Camp for kicking the ball away a second after the whistle went.
In both legs of their tie with Milan this season, Barca had several dodgy decisions go both in their favour and against them.
Refereeing controversies seem to follow Barca around, as Jose Mourinho likes to remind people from time to time, so don't be surprised if the complexion of their upcoming tie with Chelsea is affected by a questionable refereeing call.
David Luiz Will Continue to Impress
The huge fuss which accompanied Fernando Torres' arrival at Chelsea on deadline day in January 2010 largely overshadowed that of defender David Luiz on the same day.
After he scored a couple of goals early in his Chelsea career, it all started to go wrong for Luiz when his first-minute slip allowed Javier Hernandez to waltz through and score a goal in what proved to be a hugely influential win in the title race.
The Brazilian's form became more shambolic as he struggled to adapt to Andre Villas-Boas's demands on defence, but in recent weeks the centre-back has recovered plenty of the form which got him signed for £21 million in the first place.
He may not be able to stop the Barca juggernaut rolling on, but another couple of good showings against the European champions will go a long way to restoring Luiz's reputation.
Cesc Fabregas Will Revel in Playing English Opposition Again
It has been just eight months since Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal for Barcelona, but it feels like so much longer. Fabregas settled into life back at his first club in no time, while the Gunners have struggled to fill the hole left by their former captain's departure.
However, the Spanish playmaker has made no secret of the fact he still follows Arsenal's fortunes, and English football in general from afar and will revel in the opportunity to play one of Arsenal's biggest rivals again.
Fabregas may only have scored two goals against Chelsea in his eight years at Arsenal, but it would be so fitting if he were to make the difference against them in this tie.