The evolution of a rivalry: Chelsea vs Barcelona | News | Official Site

The evolution of a rivalry: Chelsea vs Barcelona | News | Official Site
The evolution of a rivalry: Chelsea vs Barcelona | News | Official Site
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The rivalry between Chelsea and Barcelona extends across our men’s, women’s and Academy sides and has its origins almost 60 years in the past. This is the evolution of that rivalry…

With their roots firmly in west London and Catalonia, Chelsea and Barcelona may not seem like natural rivals.

There are clear geographical and domestic reasons why Blues supporters never forget a goal against Tottenham or a win at Anfield, and the same can be said for the Blaugrana when it comes to Espanyol or Real Madrid.

However, a series of closely – and at times acrimoniously – contested ties, often under high pressure at the top level of the game, have resulted in plenty of emotion on the pitch and in the stands whenever Chelsea and Barcelona come face-to-face .

That has resurfaced this week, as Erin Cuthbert’s goal made Chelsea Women the first side to beat Barcelona Femeni in any competition this season – and in the process inflicted the Spaniards’ first home defeat since February 2019.

Barcelona did not take kindly to the unfamiliar loss. Not that Emma Hayes and her team will be concerned given we take a 1-0 lead to take into the second leg of that semi-final at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

It may add some extra spice to proceedings at the Bridge as we attempt to gain revenge on Barcelona in the Women’s Champions League.

No doubt that approach in Catalonia was informed by lessons learned when they ended our run at the same stage last season: a 1-0 first-leg defeat doing much of the damage before a 1-1 draw away.

We are attempting to reach the Women’s Champions League final for just the second time, with one eye on lifting the trophy for the first time to complete Hayes’s and the club’s silverware collection in her final season.

Of course, Barcelona are responsible for us not already owning that trophy. Our only appearance in the final came in 2021, when the Catalonians inflicted a painful 4-0 defeat, with all four goals coming in the first half in Sweden.

No doubt that fact isn’t lost on the 11 members of the current Chelsea Women squad who were involved that day.

Even the two clubs’ academies have gotten in on the act. Barcelona have long considered their La Masia youth system to be the best in the world, but Cobham has firmly challenged that title as the Blues became serial trophy winners at that level, at home and abroad.

That has resulted in Chelsea and Barcelona tied as the only teams to have won the UEFA Youth League more than once, with two triumphs apiece. One of those Barcelona victories came against Chelsea in the 2018 final, when a strong side featuring Reece James, Conor Gallagher, Marc Guehi and Callum Hudson-Odoi was beaten 3-0 in Nyon.

However, we got revenge in the semi-finals the following year, when Charlie Brown and Luke McCormick found the net in a 2-2 draw. In the penalty shootout, Tino Anjorin kept his nerve to send us into the final.

Of course, the rivalry goes back a lot further than those Women’s Champions League and UEFA Youth League encounters.

The men’s teams first met in the 1965/66 Fairs Cup – a precursor to the Europa League. Our continental debut had been going well, including memorable wins over Roma, AC Milan and German champions 1860 Munich, when we were brought back down to earth by a 2-0 loss away at Barcelona in the first leg of the semi-finals.

The Blues had a plan, though, feeling the more direct style of English football could still triumph back at the Bridge. Barcelona were furious at the condition of the pitch when they arrived and deemed it unplayable.

They perhaps had a point. Ron Harris, then still six years away from captaining Chelsea to our first European trophy, would later claim the help of the fire brigade was enlisted to water the pitch to, literally, bog down Barcelona’s passing brand of football.

The Blaugrana were angry and, with the help of some meaty challenges from Harris and Co, seemed to lose their heads. They were reduced to 10 men for a red card before half-time, then scored two own goals to level the scores.

Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the Blues, as a replay back on the Nou Camp carpet saw Barcelona win 5-0, going on to win the competition.

It was a long time since we met again, but when we did it was Barcelona who put an end to a European debut one more time, this time our first Champions League campaign in 1999/00.

Having made it through two group stages to the quarter-finals, the Chelsea fans were in dreamland when Gianfranco Zola’s opener and a Tore Andre Flo brace gave us a 3-1 win at the Bridge in the first leg.

We played out of our skins, the level of performance perhaps best demonstrated by Xavi later naming Jody Morris as the toughest opponent he had ever faced.

Again, we came unstuck at the Nou Camp, though. We were just seven minutes from the semis after Flo had responded to goals from Rivaldo and Luis Figo, but Dani netted to send us to extra time after Rivaldo missed a chance to win it for Barcelona from the penalty spot late on.

In the added 30 minutes, though, the Brazilian did not net from the spot, Celestine Babayaro was sent off, and Patrick Kluivert put the home side two ahead to end our run.

The two sides then met in the Champions League in three consecutive seasons, winning a last-16 tie each before two even group-stage contents in 2007, with that period mostly remembered for brilliant goals by Frank Lampard and Ronaldinho.

The rivalry was cemented in 2009 when we met in the Champions League semi-finals. A combination of the Blues’ determined defense and a brilliant Petr Cech display had frustrated Barcelona’s front three of Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o, who went into the game with 90 goals between them that season.

That showed as Michael Ballack and Florent Malouda were caught up in heated exchanges with Henry and Dani Alves, but it was nothing compared to the second leg.

The controversy from that game has lasted to this day, but things started well for us when Michael Essien fired us into the lead with a stunning volley and Eric Abidal was sent off.

Things were already simmering after Chelsea had three strong penalty appeals turned down and erupted when Andres Iniesta struck in the 93rd minute, changing things from a potential Chelsea win to a defeat on the now-defunct away goals rule.

The Blues were furious and a heated end to the match saw four bookings dished out while Didier Drogba faced further punishment from UEFA as his protests continued after the game.

That experience set things up nicely when we met again in the semi-finals in 2012. Of course, we all know how that one ended, as Chelsea went on to win our first Champions League title by beating Bayern Munich in the final.

A narrow first-leg win at the Bridge, thanks to Drogba’s revenge, ultimately proved to be the difference. It was the second leg that lives long in the memory, though, as the 10-man Blues went two goals down, before Ramires’ brilliant chip put us ahead on away goals and then Fernando Torres rounded Victor Valdes to make things certain late on.

With Chelsea Women also holding a 1-0 semi-final lead from the first leg, hopefully we will have the same outcome in the latest chapter of our rivalry with Barcelona on Saturday.

More than 32,500 tickets have already been sold for that Champions League semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge, and you can be there for the latest installment of the Chelsea vs Barcelona rivalry.

The article is in Latvian

Tags: evolution rivalry Chelsea Barcelona News Official Site

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