Chelsea, Barca calm before storm

The usual pre-match war of words between the Chelsea and Barcelona football camps has not materialised ahead of their Group A UEFA Champions League clash at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.

Feeling normal: Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard
Feeling normal: Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard

Frank Rijkaard, Barcelona manager, has put the calm before the storm down to Chelsea’s preoccupation with their injured goalkeepers Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini, who were both heavily concussed during their English Premier League encounter with Reading on Saturday.


“I feel normal approaching the game,” said Rijkaard.


“But I think if things are a bit more peaceful than in the past it’s possibly to do with the fact there are these injuries to the goalkeepers, especially the serious one to Cech.


“Maybe that’s why the people at Chelsea are a little bit calmer than they have been in the past,” added the former Dutch international.


“I don’t think there is an extra edge to this match. It is a game in the Champions League and they are always something special.”


The Catalans and the Londoners have clashed in the past two Champions League seasons, with the bad blood starting in 2005 after a series of heated exchanges between Rijkaard and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.


Chelsea knocked Barcelona out of the quarter-finals that year in a two-leg tie that saw the dismissal of Blues striker Dider Drogba, and racial abuse claims by Barca’s Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o.


The Spanish club avenged that defeat last season as they knocked Chelsea out in the second round, but the sending-off of Chelsea defender Asier Del Horno after some theatrics from Barca midfielder Lionel Messi had Mourinho incensed once again.


Big debut: Chelsea’s third-string goalkeeper Henrique Hilario

Big debut: Chelsea’s third-string
goalkeeper Henrique Hilario

This time around Chelsea have in-house concerns over their two injured keepers with Czech Petr Cech certain to be out for several months after having surgery on a fractured skull, while Cudicini is sidelined with concussion.


“I didn’t see the injury to Cech but I read about it and it was terrible. I hope this great goalkeeper can recover and I would love to see him back as soon as possible,” Rijkaard said.


Third-string keeper Henrique Hilario comes into the Chelsea side making his debut for the Blues on the biggest club stage in Europe.


“Chelsea is a great club with a wonderful squad. Of course it isn’t easy to replace Petr Cech but I think all the keepers who are working with Chelsea have their qualities, so we don’t have special tactics for Hilario,” added the Barca manager.


Valencia looking for three straight


Meanwhile, Barca’s La Liga counterparts Valencia are confident of remaining undefeated atop Group D when they host Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.


The Quique Sanchez Flores coached Valencia have won two from two so far in their Champions League campaign and go into the match as strong favourites to beat Shakhtar who have recorded one draw and one loss so far.


Valencia manager Quique Flores(C) lays down the law to his team

Valencia manager Quique Flores
(C) lays down the law to his team

“We have the skills necessary to be the better team,” said Sanchez Flores.


“Our primary objective is to qualify for the second round, but after that it is to finish top of the group. That will be easier to achieve if we earn a third win in three games.”


The other Group D encounter sees Greek champions Olympiakos host Serie A side Roma, while in Group A, the winless Werder Bremen play the winless Levski Sofia in Germany.


Group B action has Inter Milan looking for their first Champions League points of the season as they take on Spartak Moscow at the San Siro, while Bayern Munich travel to Sporting Lisbon looking for three wins from three.


Finally in Group C, French Ligue 1 team Bordeaux play host to English Premier League outfit Liverpool and Turkey’s Galatasaray take on PSV Eindhoven from Holland at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium in Istanbul.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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