The team will play in their black kit at Stamford Bridge / PHOTO: ARXIU FCB

In one way or another, FC Barcelona’s Champions League history is very closely
associated to London. It was here where they won the final in both 1992 and 2011, and
also where they travelled in 2006 and 2009 to eliminate Chelsea in the round of 16 and
semi finals. In fact, every time Barça have been crowned European champions it has
involved a visit to London in some form or other. And now they are back in the English
capital in search of another victory against The Blues, in the first leg of a semi final that
immediately brings back to mind Iniesta’s unforgettable last minute goal in 2009.

22 players

Iniesta is one of the 22 players that Guardiola has taken to London as part of a squad
that features all 18 available first team players and four from Barça B (Oier, Montoya,
Bartra and Tello). Four of those will have to be dropped from the definitive match
squad. Ibrahim Afellay is included for his first away trip since getting injured, while
Seydou Keita also returns after being declared fully fit on Monday.

Both Puyol and Mascherano will have to be careful. Both players are just one booking
away from suspension. However, the Premiership side has even more concerns in that
respect, with all of Ivanovic, David Luiz, Ashley Cole and Meireles just one yellow card
short of an enforced absence from the return leg at the Camp Nou.

Memories of 2009

It is hard to ignore what happened at the same venue three years ago, when Iniesta
scored a dramatic goal in the second minute of injury time to send Barça into the Rome
final. But the circumstances aren’t quite the same today, for this time it is the first leg
that will be staged at Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea are arguably not as formidable a
rival as they were a few years ago. They are in sixth place in the Premier League, two
points adrift of local rivals Tottenham, and have not yet ensured a place in next year’s
Europa League, let alone the Champions league.

Di Matteo rings the changes

But they have defied their poor domestic form to string together an impressive run in
Europe. They beat Napoli in extra time in the round of sixteen, and then overcame
Benfica in a gripping quarter final encounter. Di Matteo, who has taken over from the
sacked Villas-Boas, has not taken long to turn the fortunes around for a team that, on
the basis of both players and prestige, will present a very difficult challenge indeed for
the defending champions. With just this game standing between both teams and place
in the Munich final, we can expect events at Stamford Bridge and the Camp Nou to be
just as thrilling as the many past encounters between these two great sides.

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