Defiant Drogba puts faith in Chelsea firepower

Striker confident Chelsea carry greater goal threat than Barça into tonight’s tie
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The Independent Online

Barcelona's attacking triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o is known as the Holy Trinity. Chelsea, however, are in no mood to prostrate themselves and pay homage ahead of tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg.

Barça are a fearsome proposition, boasting a jaw-dropping 146 goals in all competitions so far this season following their 6-2 victory over Real Madrid in the Bernabeu at the weekend. But in a statement likely to further fuel the simmering ill-feeling between the two sides, Didier Drogba said Chelsea possess a greater array of goalscoring options than their free-scoring opponents. Drogba represents Guus Hiddink's best hope of securing Chelsea's second successive Champions League final, with 12 goals in his last 15 games, all since the veteran Dutch manager arrived at Stamford Bridge in February. But the powerful striker insisted the goal threat from Chelsea runs through the entire side.

"In the last few months, we've shown that we can score goals and, OK, they have Messi, Henry, Eto'o, and Andres Iniesta can also score," Drogba said, "but we've got more players able to score. We can score from every position in our side. We know that."

They will need to be on song to do so but the current favourite ditty among Chelsea's more vocal supporters is a chant to the tune of The Beach Boys' "Sloop John B", which ends with the line: "F**k your history, we're going to Rome." History however is on Chelsea's side tonight. Statistically the Blues are the favourites, with a 66.8 per cent chance of progressing, based on the outcome of all European ties when the first leg has ended goalless. It proved the case for Manchester United against Barcelona last season, with a 0-0 draw in the Nou Camp followed by a 1-0 victory for the English champions at Old Trafford.

Chelsea can also take comfort from their impressive home form, which has seen them go unbeaten in 17 home ties in the Champions League. They may not wish to recall, however, that the last foreign team to leave Stamford Bridge with a victory was Barcelona, 2-1 victors in February 2006. But the Barcelona knocked out by Sir Alex Ferguson's United last season has matured into an awesome side. Chelsea pulled out the defensive performance of the season to keep them at bay last week, sparking an avalanche of abuse from Spain.

Drogba, however, said the insults were just an attempt to influence tonight's referee Tom Henning Ovrebo, from Norway. "They have tried to put a bit of pressure on the referee, but we know it's going to be a game that everyone wants to watch," he said.

Hiddink admitted time is running out for several members of his side, who have lost three semi-finals and a final in the last five seasons. "These players don't have five, six, seven years more to have the same chances they've had in recent years," he said. "It's very respectable that Chelsea have made it into five semi-finals in the last six years. But, of course, this is one of the last occasions for these players to get where they want to be."

It is almost six seasons since Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea but still the club is way behind the fantasy football of Barcelona. Abramovich has lavished £710m on rejuvenating the team and has been repaid with Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006. But despite all the millions spent, glamour and glory is still more associated with the famous blaugrana shirt.

"Barcelona are respected worldwide: their strategy and philosophy, how they've built their club, this style of playing whoever their manager is," Hiddink said. "That's good to see."

Hiddink's main decision will be whether to opt for the more attacking Nicolas Anelka or stick with the side which drew in the Nou Camp last week, which would mean a place for the more destructive qualities of John Obi Mikel instead.

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