Chelsea must solve left back problem against Barcelona
Chelsea will face the might of Barcelona, and the danger posed by Lionel Messi, without a recognised left back when the teams meet in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final later this month.sports Updated: Apr 15, 2009 15:51 IST
Chelsea will face the might of Barcelona, and the danger posed by Lionel Messi, without a recognised left back when the teams meet in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final later this month.
The Londoners, who advanced after an astonishing 4-4 home draw with Liverpool on Tuesday, will be without England's Ashley Cole after his 65th-minute booking for a push on Alvaro Arbeloa means he is suspended for the game at the Nou Camp on April 28.
Although Chelsea will have captain John Terry back after he was banned on Tuesday, interim coach Guus Hiddink said Cole's absence was concerning.
"It's true, the situation at left back might cause us some problems but we have time to resolve it," Hiddink told reporters.
"Barcelona have very skilful players. They know how to handle the pace and I like their philosophy of football.
"They sign players who are attractive to watch. They like to play advanced attacking football and it is difficult to play them because they are a top side."
The left back situation has arisen because Chelsea sold deputy Wayne Bridge to Manchester City in January and the versatile Paulo Ferreira, who can also play in that role, is out with a knee ligament injury.
It does not help that Argentine dangerman Messi, who normally plays on the right, is the top scorer in the Champions League this season with eight goals.
Tuesday's 7-5 aggregate win kept Chelsea in the chase for three trophies, the Premier League, the FA Cup and the ultimate prize, the European Cup they came so close to winning last May when they lost to Manchester United in a penalty shootout in the final in Moscow.
Hiddink's team have little time to rest, with an FA Cup semi-final against London rivals Arsenal coming up at Wembley on Saturday.
The Dutch coach also faces another problem, helping goalkeeper Petr Cech rediscover his confidence after an unconvincing display against Liverpool.
Cech was at fault for the first goal when Fabio Aurelio exploited a huge gap he left at the near post to score direct from a free kick.
Although he could not do much about the other three, his handling was poor and his reputation as the world's best goalkeeper is under considerable scrutiny.
It was one of the most remarkable European ties played especially as Liverpool, without injured skipper Steven Gerrard, trailed 3-1 from the first leg at Anfield and needed to score three goals at Stamford Bridge to have any chance of victory.
The visitors went 2-0 up, levelling 3-3 on aggregate, thanks to Aurelio's free kick and Xabi Alonso's 28th-minute penalty.
Didier Drogba (51), Alex (57), with a stunning free kick, and Frank Lampard (76) then put Chelsea 3-2 ahead on the night.
Liverpool battled back with a deflected shot from Lucas and a header by Dirk Kuyt to reduce their aggregate arrears to 6-5 with seven minutes to play.
Another strike for the visitors and they would have won on away goals but Lampard netted again after 89 minutes to finally kill off Liverpool's dream of an improbable fightback.
Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez said his team would now focus their efforts on trying to become domestic league champions for the first time since 1990.
"We scored four goals at Manchester United (last month) and four at Chelsea and we can win matches anywhere," he said.
"I am really proud of my players and it was no disgrace to lose like this," he said, adding he expected Gerrard to be fit to face Arsenal in the Premier League at Anfield on Tuesday.
First Published: Apr 15, 2009 15:50 IST