Petr Cech keeps Chelsea in touch with hard reality ahead of Barcelona test

Keeper knows Barça will summon furies against "lucky" team they struggle to beat

Barcelona

When you consider the low points in Chelsea's journey this season it is remarkable they have made it this far. There were the home defeats to Arsenal and Liverpool in the league and the defeat to Queen's Park Rangers in October when the slide under Andre Villas-Boas began in earnest. Then came the defeat to Aston Villa on New Year's Eve, and those to Everton and to West Bromwich Albion, the game that did for AVB. Before then there was the humbling loss to Napoli in Italy.

There have been 11 defeats in all competitions, which is not the record you would expect of a team one game away from eliminating the runaway favourites for the Champions League in the semi-finals tonight. But this, after all, is Chelsea. They rolled with the punches in 2009 after the regime of Luiz Felipe Scolari was ended and won an FA Cup four months after he was sacked. In a crisis season, that is not a bad outcome. Just ask Arsenal.

The Champions League is not supposed to be the kind of trophy a team stumble upon and certainly no one beats the current Barcelona team by accident. But since he took over as Barcelona manager in 2008, Pep Guardiola has faced 52 clubs and Chelsea are the only one his teams have never beaten – Barça went through on away goals in 2009. There is undoubtedly something about Chelsea that gets under Barcelona's skin and results bear it out. The last three games between the two clubs at the Nou Camp have been draws. Barcelona's last win over Chelsea at home was in February 2006.

Petr Cech, a veteran of the modern Chelsea's rivalry with Barcelona, is the serious type, not given to talking about luck, but he did so yesterday on a couple of occasions. He admitted that Chelsea were "very lucky" in the first leg but said that in the past, Barcelona had been "luckier". "It [Barcelona] is a great team," he said. "We always try our best to find a way to play well against them. Of course, we've put ourselves in a very good position by winning that first leg. Now we have 90 minutes to get to the final."

Asked whether Jose Mourinho had offered advice on beating Barcelona, Cech deadpanned that his former manager had held a tactical meeting with the Chelsea players two hours ago. That is as about as jokey as it gets with the Chelsea goalkeeper, a serious man who has witnessed every Chelsea managerial divorce since Mourinho and survived to tell the tale. There is not much that rattles him.

Even when he was asked whether he could have envisaged a season like this one, Cech said he could have "imagined a lot of things". "It's true there were moments when everything looked more complicated and we had to go through. Thankfully we've done this and now we want to carry on. But you have things happening in football quite fast. It can go from bad to great, and great to bad, in a split second. We've kind of split the season in two parts, where we weren't doing as well as we'd wished in the Premier League, but we've done well in the Champions League."

Barcelona's two successive defeats going into this game have been seized upon by some as evidence that their spell has been broken. The usually indomitable Lionel Messi missed training on Sunday, although he was back yesterday. In his press conference yesterday, Gerard Pique was so taken with the downbeat mood he was moved to remind the room exactly what this Barcelona team have achieved.

It would be foolish in the extreme to believe that this Barcelona team are there for the taking. They may be less sure of themselves than two weeks ago and playing in front of a crowd that even Pique described as prone to a "pessimistic" disposition, but no one would accuse them of being vulnerable.

There are an abundance of statistics that illustrate how good this Barcelona team have been in recent times. The last time they were beaten three games in a row was 2003 but perhaps the best of all is the fact that they have had more possession than their opposition in the last 243 games they have played. Whatever happens tonight, Chelsea can be sure that they will not have much of the ball. But then they probably already knew that.

Chelsea will not kid themselves about this game: it will have to be the performance of their lives and with a team that is a strange mish-mash of the best of their past, some young ones and others who would not have got a game for Chelsea three years ago. When they were eliminated by Barcelona in the semi-finals 2009, on away goals, Chelsea's goal was a brilliant strike by Michael Essien. One cruciate injury down the road, he is now in the B-string.

In 2009, John Obi Mikel was on the bench in the semi-final second leg against Barcelona rather than preparing, as tonight, to play a key role in the game. It would have been hard to envisage Raul Meireles being picked ahead of Michael Ballack but these are the players whom Roberto Di Matteo has to work with and he has taken this less spectacular squad a long way,

"It's difficult to compare teams," Cech said. "They are three years apart, and you can always say this team was 'great', or that team wasn't. You look at the results and, last time we didn't get to the final. This time we have a chance to do so. But I wouldn't compare the team. It's three years later, we're more experienced, and anything can happen."

Chelsea's Champions League campaign this season, ever since the 3-1 defeat to Napoli in the first leg of the round-of-16 tie, has been different to all others. The club's position has been so dire that there has been a more realistic mood. The pressure has been off. The same mood was discernible again yesterday.

As for Barcelona, the pressure is most certainly on. It is quite possible that once the European champions start moving the ball around the Nou Camp tonight and the whole stadium wakes up, notions of pressure and expectation may seem incidental to the night's proceedings. But last night it felt like Chelsea were the team with nothing to lose.

Key confrontations: Where tonight's match will be won and lost

Dani Alves v Ramires

A battle of Brazilian internationals – Ramires will have to stay defensively disciplined, with Alves always looking to surge forward. Ramires, however, has pace and will start counter-attacks.

Gerard Pique v Didier Drogba

Pique is expected to be brought back into the Barça team to provide a physical challenge for Drogba, whose powerful style will suit chasing long balls in the vast Nou Camp.

Alexis Sanchezv Ashley Cole

Sanchez is not as effective as the injured David Villa, but his direct running caused problems in the first leg. Cole will have to be careful, as a booking would rule him out of the final.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)