Chelsea’s capacity to hold a grudge over the long term and not let things go is one of the main reasons Frank Lampard thinks they can cause one of the big upsets in Champions League history when they take on Barcelona tonight. He didn’t actually put it in those terms, but reading between the lines is easier than taking an immediate dislike to Ashley Cole.
The wounds of 2009 have been opened afresh in the build-up to the semi-final meeting of the Londoners and the Catalans. But Lampard (33) says the team will use that year’s result as motivation to make sure it doesn’t happen this time around.
On that night, Chelsea had a host of penalty appeals waved away by referee Tom Henning Ovrebo before being sucker-punched with an Andreas Iniesta goal that put Bara through on away goals. “You have to be big enough to take it and bounce back. It makes you more determined,” said Lampard.
Chelsea have reasons for the optimism that probably isn’t shared by many outside the club. They haven’t lost to Barcelona in their five most recent clashes.
Considering most of those clashes occurred at a time when los Cules have been at their ‘running rings around everyone’ pomp, it’s a laudable achievement. Plus, they’ve managed to shackle the player who many consider to be the best to have ever played the game, but Pele considers to be some sort of League 1 journeyman.
“We pride ourselves on the fact Messi has never scored against us,” said Lampard, which is kind of all you have left when you haven’t actually won a Champions League.
In fairness to the Chelsea camp, their optimism doesn’t come from any delusional discounting of Barcelona’s immense ability. “It is fair to say we need two perfect games from our point of view against this team,” admitted Chelsea caretaker boss Roberto Di Matteo, not adding “and the occasional phantom goal would do nicely too”.
Chelsea have improved since Andre Villas-Boas and his Inspector Gadget trench coat were shown the door, but that improvement needs to go up a few notches when Barcelona visit the Bridge tonight. If not and despite some encouraging statistics, things could get very Messi indeed.