London calling for second-leg heroics

Chelsea and Arsenal are both promising a more exciting and effective performance in the second leg of the Champions' League semi-finals this week. It should not be difficult. Television viewers around the world could hardly have expected a repeat of the 4-4 extravaganzas in which both London sides had been involved against Liverpool recently, but the manner in which they set out to frustrate rather than create in their away legs was deeply disappointing.

They were at least denied the satisfaction of an away goal, which is a principal reason why Barcelona and Manchester United remain favourites to progress to what would be a popular final in Rome on 27 May. A year ago, of course, that pair were thrown together in the semi-final and United achieved what Chelsea must now hope for: holding on for a goalless draw in the Nou Camp after being outplayed, then scraping through at home.

Chelsea's interim manager, Guus Hiddink, says that "as a football-lover" he likes to watch Barcelona and Lionel Messi. Well aware of Roman Abramovich's demands, he even insists that he would not want to win the Champions' League playing the type of anti-football his team stand accused of producing in Catalonia.

"If we had the concept and attitude of playing defensively, I'd not be very happy with that, even winning," he said. "It's always good for a big club to have the modern concept of trying to play attacking, as we did against Liverpool and Juve, home and away. We try to play attractive, but sometimes you're forced to play different."

Barcelona, he accepts, are "as a unit, the best side in the competition", which is why he admits that, having failed to score the away goal, "it will be tight". Questioned about Chelsea's physical and negative approach in the first leg, Hiddink defended as resolutely as his players; but it was disappointing nevertheless to see the more xenophobic sections of the British press resorting to insults about "Bleating Barça... world-class whingers... don't like it up 'em!" (Daily Mail). The facts were that Chelsea committed three times as many fouls; that Michael Ballack should have had two yellow cards, and that Thierry Henry was denied a legitimate penalty. But foreigners "whinge", Brits merely speak out.

It is only Barcelona, however, who have a player suspended, in the veteran Carles Puyol. With another centre-half, Rafael Marquez, injured, Eric Abidal may move into the middle, offering an opportunity to the almost forgotten Sylvinho, an Arsenal stalwart before the days of Ashley Cole, Gaël Clichy and Kieran Gibbs. Arsène Wenger can certainly spot a left-back. On Tuesday, he will have to rely on the teenaged Gibbs, who stood up well with little help against Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney as his team escaped from Old Trafford with nothing worse than a 1-0 defeat.

Kolo Touré, whose dream is to play against brother Yaya in the final, conceded, "It's always a difficult situation to lose 1-0 away from home", while his defensive partner Mikaël Silvestre admitted: "It felt like Fort Alamo."

Davy Crockett's boys were not allowed the luxury of second legs. Arsenal are fortunate to be granted one and, like Chelsea, will do exceptionally well to come through it.

Champions' League semi-finals

Tuesday: Arsenal v Manchester United (7.45pm, ITV1)

Having made so much of the importance of an away goal, Arsène Wenger must be far more concerned than he is letting on about not having secured one – or even come close. Once United score, it is hard to see Arsenal without Andrey Arshavin and Robin van Persie getting three.

Wednesday: Chelsea v Barcelona (7.45pm, Sky Sports 2)

Although dominant in the first leg, Barça will be aware of having a poor record against English clubs: two wins in the last nine meetings, during which Lionel Messi has not scored. But Chelsea's luck surely cannot hold if the Catalans have as much possession again.

Odds to win trophy: 13-8 Manchester United; 15-8 Barcelona; 100-30 Chelsea; 11-2 Arsenal.

Steve Tongue

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
peopleSwimmer also charged with crossing double land lines and excessive speeding
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style