Impressive Barcelona and their world-class offensive players face the solid Chelsea at Camp Nou for the first leg of the Champions League. The Spaniards are the only non-English team still fighting for the title.
AFP - Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola accepts that Chelsea are physically superior and to win the Champions League semi-final they will look to retain possession and enforce their own passing game.
"I am very impressed with Chelsea, they are a powerful team and a lot stronger than us, so we must keep hold of the ball and make the difference at home," said Guardiola, speaking ahead of Tuesday night's game.
"Our intention is to play our usual style which means attacking while at the same time making sure that we do not concede a goal.
"I saw in Chelsea's game against Liverpool the danger they pose in the air especially from (Didier) Drogba and so we have to be careful to concede as few free-kicks and corners as possible.
"Chelsea have more to their game though than just power and if you let them play then they can create a lot of danger with footballers who can run 20 or 30 yards with a ball and we just have to be aware of that.
"We have played other teams though that have a similar approach to Chelsea so we do know what to expect."
Guardiola has been described as building a team which is the natural heir to Johan Cruyff's famous Dream Team of the early 1990s which won the European Cup in 1992 and he is proud of the comparison.
"I have tried to introduce this system, it is an honour to have this chance and show it to the world," said the former Barcelona playmaker, who replaced Frank Rijkaard at the helm.
"I learned a lot from Cruyff who brought a style of attacking football which became famous, I don't know whether you can see a likeness between the teams but we have the same principles."
Midfielder Xavi Hernandez claims Barca are well-prepared for the challenge of Chelsea and is confident the team can win the treble.
"Chelsea are very strong, we have played against them many times so we know what they are capable of doing," said the Euro 2008 winning midfielder.
"They have a very good defence and players in midfield who can win the game but we are motivated to win three competitions," he added, referring to the team also being in the final of the Copa del Rey and with a four point lead at the top of the championship.
Xavi said that there was a profound difference between the present Barca team and that of last season which saw Rijkaard sacked.
"We are a far better team than last year in all areas of the pitch, we are now training harder and we are more attentive in both defence and attack.
"We have reached the semi-finals on our own merit having beaten quality teams like Lyon and Bayern Munich.
"Chelsea may have a new coach now but the players are the same which is important, we know their qualities and we have beaten them before. (Ricardo) Carvalho and Ashley Cole will be missing for them but that is not going to be crucial as they have other players who can come in."
Despite the Premier League boasting three teams in the semi-finals, Xavi denies they are the top league in Europe.
"I think our league is better as although the Premiership is faster and more physical in Spain it is technically stronger.
"Both leagues are very strong though and I don't think that the result of one match will decide which is best," he said.
Date created : 2009-04-28