Barcelona's midfielder Cesc Fabregas raised the stakes ahead of tonight's first leg at Stamford Bridge when he said that Chelsea had tried to change under Andre Villas-Boas but had gone back to their old tried and trusted direct style since his dismissal.
The former Arsenal midfielder said more than once yesterday that his new club faced the Chelsea "we all know" in what will be the English club's sixth Champions semi-final in nine years.
Speaking at Stamford Bridge, Fabregas, 24, left, said: "What happened with Villas-Boas was they played more from the back, trying to keep possession and take the initiative. They've gone back to the type of Chelsea that was more successful a few years ago with [Roberto] Di Matteo: playing on the counter, trying to hit the target man, sitting back and using that No 9 as a reference point."
Later he added that Chelsea were in the best form of their season, but that the team had "not changed a lot". "With Villas-Boas maybe they tried to change a bit, but they're now the same Chelsea as when I left [Arsenal last summer]," he said.
Di Matteo confirmed he will be without David Luiz, who picked up a hamstring injury on Sunday, for two weeks. It is not clear if he will opt for Didier Drogba or Fernando Torres in attack, and he also has a choice to make in midfield between Frank Lampard, who played against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, and Raul Meireles. The signs yesterday were that it would be the Englishman who would play.
Lampard denied that Chelsea were as predictable as Fabregas might have suggested. He said: "We're mixing the powerful, organised, disciplined game with some very good attacking football. On our day, we can be a match for everyone. But we respect that Barcelona are not only the in-form team now, but the dominant team of the last few years. So we have to be at our best."
Chelsea have not lost a game to Barcelona in the Champions League since the 2-1 defeat in February 2006 at the Nou Camp. The Catalans' coach, Pep Guardiola, apparently taking nothing for granted, said: "They have the same spirit, the same soul, the same foundation. They've changed the manager and a couple of players, but the same players are largely there. I do admire that generation. It will be exciting to play them."Reuse content