LONDON - Chelsea's stubborn refusal to play to Barcelona's strengths at the Nou Camp kept their Champions League hopes alive and after seeing Saturday's brutal response from the Catalans they have no incentive to change tactics. Chelsea's cautious approach earned them a goalless draw to take back to Stamford Bridge for Wednesday's semi-final second leg but drew sharp criticism from Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola. After watching the events at the Bernabeu on Saturday, where Barcelona humiliated Real Madrid 6-2, coach Guus Hiddink has every right to feel that his tactics were spot on. Barcelona stand between Chelsea and a second successive appearance in an all-English Champions League final. Manchester United, who beat Chelsea on penalties in last year's final in Moscow, take a 1-0 advantage to Arsenal on Tuesday in the other semi-final after failing to finish off their Premier League rivals at Old Trafford. Barcelona will look hard for cracks in Chelsea's core of blue steel, after Hiddink's team repelled all their dazzling array of talent could conjure in the first leg and left Lionel Messi a frustrated figure. The prize for victory is a place in the Rome final on May 27 and England will supply at least one finalist for the fifth successive season. FIRE WITH FIRE? Hiddink played a 4-4-2 system in an entertaining 3-1 Premier League victory over Fulham at the weekend, pairing Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba up front to great effect. With Barcelona missing central defenders Carles Puyol and Rafael Marquez, the Dutchman could fight fire with fire on Tuesday but he is more likely to beef up his midfield and leave Anelka on the bench. "If we want to play a little bit for ourselves when we are not fully concentrated, then we give away chances, like we did against Fulham, but, if we do that on a higher level, we will be exposed and punished," Hiddink said. Barcelona were devastating against Real Madrid as they closed in on the Spanish title, ripping their bitter rivals to shreds. "We are going to Chelsea to win, to attack and to qualify for the final in Rome -- Chelsea know that," Guardiola said. The majority of neutrals would like to see Barcelona in the Rome final and a clash against Manchester United is a mouth-watering prospect. United still have plenty of work to do if they are to stop Arsenal reaching their second Champions League final in four seasons following defeat by Barcelona in the 2006 showpiece. Arsenal are yet to concede a home goal in the Champions League this season but United have more firepower and European knowhow than any of those visitors to north London. The Gunners are without the cup-tied Andrei Arshavin and the injured Eduardo, so manager Arsene Wenger will have his fingers crossed that Dutch striker Robin van Persie recovers from injury. United cruised past Middlesbrough on Saturday to put an 18th league title within their grasp and are unbeaten in 24 Champions League matches, a competition record.
4 May 2009
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