Chelsea’s annual dalliance with Barcelona in the Champions League kicks off at Stamford Bridge later this evening.
The appalling injury to Petr Cech at the weekend has overshadowed the build-up to this game. The press has tried their utmost to stir the pot but Jose Mourinho expects this latest meeting to be less intense than previous clashes.
“It is different from the match last year,” Mourinho said. “We are talking about a group stage game, so there is the opportunity to see some calmer football and to see the quality shine through. There is no reason to be fearful because the teams cannot get knocked out.”
The head injuries sustained by both Cech and Carlo Cudicini mean third-choice goalkeeper Henrique Hilario will make his Chelsea debut. The 30-year-old was signed in the summer on a free transfer from Portuguese side Nacional. He previously played two spells at Porto, the second under Mourinho.
20-year-old Belgian ‘keeper Yves Makabu-Makalambay, who is yet to play a first-team game for the club, will be on the bench.
Michael Ballack is expected to return after missing the weekend defeat of Reading due to suspension. Ashley Cole and Claude Makelele also missed the trip to the Madjeski Stadium because of injury but both took part in training yesterday and are likely to be in the starting line-up.
Eidur Gudjohnsen will be making his first apperance at the Bridge since his £10m move to Camp Nou. Gudjohnsen left Chelsea during the summer after six years with the club. He will be presented with a crystal glass award in gratitude for his service at the end of Barcelona’s warm-up.
Gudjohnsen has let it be known that he has revealed to Frank Rijkaard details about Mourinho’s specific training sessions designed to try and beat the Catalans.
Barcelona will be without Samuel Eto’o, who is recovering from a knee injury, and Juliano Belletti, who dislocated his shoulder during their 3-1 victory at home to Sevilla in La Liga on Sunday.
Last season’s 2-1 defeat at the Bridge was the first time Chelsea failed to beat Barcelona at home by a two-goal margin; the three previous games ended 2-0, 3-1 and 4-2. Another win tonight would leave Chelsea 5 points clear at the top of Group A.
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- Gudjohnsen’s respectful return
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- JT: Petr’s told us to win it