What: Chelsea FC at Barcelona
When: Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Time: 7:45 p.m. BT (UK)/2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT
Television: FSC (USA), Sky Sports 2, ITV1, YTV, UTV, STV Central (Europe)
Radio: SiriusXM Channel 92
LVH SuperBook (90 minutes + Injury time) Odds: Chelsea +1100, Barcelona -450; Draw +550
Total: Over 3 -130, Under 3 +110
LVH SuperBook (90 minutes + Injury time): Chelsea -1½ +130, Barcelona -1½ -150
First Half Wagering: Chelsea +½ +155, Barcelona -½ -175
First Half Total: Over 1½ +130, Under 1½ -150
LVH SuperBook "To Advance To The Final" Odds: Chelsea +190, Barcelona -220
Sportsbook.com “Name the Finalists” Odds: Barcelona-Real Madrid +130, Barcelona-Bayern Munich +200, Chelsea-RM +550, Chelsea-Bayern Munich +400
Sportsbook.com “Which Country Will Win UEFA Champions League?” Odds: Spain -300, Germany +375, England +650
LVH SuperBook Club Odds to Win UEFA Champions League: Barcelona 11/10, Real Madrid 5/2, Bayern Munich 3/1, Chelsea 13/2
The stage has now been set.
After Chelsea’s crazy 1-0 win over Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in Leg 1 of the UEFA Champions League semifinals last Wednesday, the attention now shifts to the Iberian Peninsula and Camp Nou for Tuesday’s do-or-die Leg 2 for both clubs.
Both sides will be coming off difficult Saturday matches with Chelsea having had to travel across Londontown to face red-hot Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and the Catalans playing host to fierce rival and La Liga leader Real Madrid.
For the Blues, a win, a tie or a 2-1 loss at Barcelona would mean a trip to the finals on May 19 in Munich and would shock the soccer world to its core. Two months ago, nobody in their right mind would have predicted Chelsea in the championship match.
But for the only English Premier League side remaining of the eight teams in UEFA competitions currently—La Liga still has five alive—the Blues need to get more than the one shot on goal (Didier Drogba’s late first-half goal) it had in Leg 1 to oust the Blaugrana.
Barcelona out-shot Chelsea 24-4 and controlled the ball 79 percent of the match in west London and looked like it dominated the game. But statistics are just a compilation of numbers and the only numbers that matter in the end in sports are the two that end up on the final scoreboard: If you outscore your opponent, you win the game. It’s very simple.
Knowing they will have to concentrate as much on defense this time around against the Lionel Messi-led Catalans, the Blues will likely sit back and focus on trying to stop the frenetic flow and will try to prevent that first goal, knowing they held Barça scoreless at Stamford Bridge.
If this is how they approach the match, this may backfire on Chelsea. While it’s important to focus on stopping the Blaugrana from scoring, it will be just as important to be aggressive on offense and try and get that sacred road goal and put some psychological pressure on the home team.
Much depends on the health of Didier Drogba, who was a one-man wrecking crew on offense last Sunday and Wednesday, scoring crucial goals in wins against both Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup semifinal on Wednesday and the aforementioned game-winner against Barça in Leg 1.
If Drogba is healthy—and sometimes it’s hard to tell as he often spends so much time on the pitch writhing in a fake pain he’s contrived in his head after the simplest of tackles—then all is possible for the Blues.
His size and strength seemed too much for the smaller back line of Barcelona, but it comes down to a matter of how much Chelsea can control the ball. That is much easier said than done against a side most have ranked No. 1 in the world.
Another vital cog for the Blues is defender David Luiz, who is trying to recover from a hamstring injury suffered in Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Spurs. If Luiz isn’t ready, Gary Cahill will likely start.
No doubt the Barcelonistas will be in full throat at Camp Nou, making as much noise as possible to try to help their club take an early lead and put the pressure back on the Blues.
But after a loud road game against the Gunners, Chelsea should be used to the raucousness, although the Blues have been pretty average on the road over the last year and need to try to take the crowd out of it, either with an early goal of their own or some lockdown defense.
For me, the first goal of this game will likely determine the winner. Roberto Di Matteo would be best served to advise his players to attack Victor Valdes and the Barça goal from the opening whistle in search of that early score. If it happens, Chelsea can then concentrate on being that defense-minded club that has got them where they are now.
From Barcelona, a club which has had more time of possession than their opponents in their last 243 matches, I expect the same old style: Attack, attack, attack. And I think whichever club feels the pressure first, will be heading home from this match wondering what could have been in this classic European tournament.
Looking at this from a wagering perspective, the Catalans may be a bit gassed after Saturday’s El Clasico, but with Pep Guardiola calling the shots and their loaded bench, the home team should be up for the task.
Chelsea can certainly win if everything goes its way as it did in the first leg. But beating Barcelona at home is something few have experienced of late. I see the home pitch to be quite a big advantage here.
If you want to bet the Blues to win, shop around for the best price. I have seen odds as high as +1,220 for the underdogs at some offshore shops, and the “Draw” at +610. So do your homework. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with just watching it.
In closing, if you miss this match, you will have really missed something special. I anticipate 90-plus minutes of drama at Camp Nou and a possible ending for the ages.
PREDICTION: Barca 3 Chelsea 1
BET: Over 3 -130
PROP BET: “Country To Win UEFA CL”: Spain -300
> For an odds preview of Wednesday’s Bayern Munich-Real Madrid UEFA Champions League Leg 2 semifinal match simply click on this link.
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