CECH: SEEING IT THROUGH
Petr Cech has played at the Camp Nou for Chelsea on four occasions and only been on the losing side once. If he can build on that impressive record in Spain tomorrow night the Blues will reach the Champions League final in Munich on 19 May, and our goalkeeper believes an away goal could prove pivotal in what is a finely poised tie.
Didier Drogba's solitary strike at Stamford Bridge a week ago sees us start the game with a slender one-goal advantage, but with Barcelona seven points adrift of leaders Real Madrid in La Liga after losing to Jose Mourinho's side at the weekend, they will be looking to bounce back immediately as they bid to become the first team to retain the trophy.
Pep Guardiola's side seldom get beaten, but to lose twice in the space of a week, as they have done, is almost unheard of. Cech, though, believes the defeat against their biggest rivals on Saturday will be put well and truly out of their system by the time the game begins tomorrow.
'It's a big game, they lost against Real Madrid but it won't have a big impact on this game,' said the Blues 'keeper.
'They are a great team who know how to handle defeats, they will just want to forget about El Clasico and concentrate on this game. I think Barcelona are favourites for the game because they are playing at home in front of their fans.
'I think it will be the same type of game as the first leg, and I hope we can score again. A goal for us is going to make a big difference in terms of the whole game, just like [Andres] Iniesta's goal made a difference last time.'
The tie represents our sixth Champions League semi-final in the space of nine years, and Cech has played in five of them.
Over the course of that period we have come so close to landing the trophy, only to be denied under the cruellest possible circumstances, from penalty shoot-outs, to last-minute goals, and Cech admitted that while we have put ourselves in a good position to progress, he often wonders if it will ever happen for us in this competition.
'They are a great team but we always find a way to play well against them, we've put ourselves in a very good position by winning 1-0 in the first leg, we have 90 minutes to get to the final which we will try to do,' he said.
'I've been hoping for eight years I would have a chance to win the Champions League. We're in the semi-finals again and I hope this will be the year. Many times we've gone close but not managed to do it. If we have a fantastic game tomorrow we have a chance to play the final, but first we need to play 90 minutes or more tomorrow, let's see how the game goes, but it's too early to talk about the final.'
Historically, games against the Catalan side have been littered with controversy; from the game back in 2005 when Drogba was controversially dismissed, right through to the 2009 second leg clash when we had what looked like four legitimate penalty claims waved away.
With the way Barcelona are able to retain possession, keeping 11 players on the pitch tomorrow night will be imperative, but Cech believes with Cuneyt Cakir in charge, there should be no such issues.
'A referee can be a big part of game, we've had some great games against Barcelona in the past but there was always controversy, which is a shame as it overshadowed the quality,' said Cech.
'He's an experienced referee and if you have that experience from Turkey with the likes of Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, this game, a Champions League semi-final, should not be a problem. We are not a team that makes trouble on the pitch, the referee will have the same professional approach as in the first game which was free of controversy.'
On the subject of the pitch, Cech has played down the importance of what is widely suggested as a much bigger playing area than Stamford Bridge, even if the published measurements are only two metres longer and a metre wider.
'It's clear that it looks big because the stadium is big and the space around the edge might be bigger, but the dimensions are similar and it's what we're used to. It always appears as though the pitch is so big because Barcelona have so much possession and you can't always reach the ball.'
Back in February, the Blues appeared to be heading out of the tournament at the first knockout stage when we lost 3-1 in Napoli. Confidence and belief were low among both players and supporters alike, and there appeared no way of turning it around.
Since then, however, we have embarked on a wonderful run which has seen us lose only once in 14 matches, secure a place in the FA Cup final and stand on the brink of the biggest stage in European football, an unbelievable turnaround, as Cech admitted.
'It's true, there were moments when it looked more complicated, but thankfully we've done it and we want to carry it on,' said the Czech international. 'Things in football happen quickly sometimes, it can go from bad to great, and great to bad. We are not doing as well as we would have liked in the league but we've compensated for it in the Champions League and FA Cup.
'After the Napoli game we were written off, but here we are. We are in the Camp Nou, 90 minutes away from the final. It's great to be in this position but things change quickly in football. We have a good advantage and we are confident that we're in a good enough position to go through.'