Loading...
Loading Live Scoring...
*All times CAT (GMT+2)

Football | Champions League

Juan Mata © Action Images

Mata up for Barcelona test



Juan Mata acknowledged that Chelsea were forced to sweat in their victory over Benfica but also conceded that getting to the elite end of the Champions League always entails a little suffering. Now the Premier League side are determined to ensure that their semifinal tie with Barcelona will not be accompanied by excruciating pain.

Only when Raul Meireles rammed in a fearsome drive in added time did Chelsea look to be home and dry in their quarterfinal against opponents reduced to ten from the 40th minute following the dismissal of Maxi Pereira.

By that stage Benfica trailed 2-0 on aggregate but still they kept fighting, reluctant to admit that their ambition of a first European Cup semifinal for 22 years was a forlorn hope. They reduced the arrears through Javi García to engineer a heart-thumping climax but Chelsea had the last word.

"Benfica pushed us really close, as we knew they would," Juan Mata told Uefa.com. "They are a very strong team and we suffered after their goal went in in the 85th minute. But in the Champions League, if you want to reach the semifinals, you know you have to suffer. We are in the semifinals and it is a gift for us to be there. Barcelona have most of the best players in the world but we are Chelsea and we will fight."

Mata, the Uefa.com Player Rater winner who previously has not ventured past the quarterfinal stage of a European competition – two seasons ago his Valencia team were knocked out of the Uefa Europa League by fellow countrymen Club Atletico Madrid – said it was always special for him to face another Spanish team.

"Earlier this season I played against Valencia, my team for years, and now we're playing Barcelona. Are they beatable? In football nothing is impossible. Of course, it will be difficult. They can play just as well away as they can at home but we shall see. We are a side with more confidence now. That is the reason for our recent results."

As one of two defensive midfielders in the system now favoured by interim manager Roberto Di Matteo, John Obi Mikel knows he will be in for a busy night, both at Stamford Bridge on 18 April and at Camp Nou six days later.

"We are coming up against the best player in the world, the greatest player ever," said Mikel in salute to the genius of Lionel Messi. "We are playing the best team in the world right now but going into the match as underdogs might just play into our hands. We have played them a few times and we know what we have to do. Hopefully our physicality will see us through."

Shop

Gerrard: My Autobiography
Steven Gerrard is a hero to millions, not only as the inspirational captain of Liverpool FC, but as a key member of the England team.
R161.00
Rafa: My Story
Revelatory memoir from the greatest sportsman in the world today.
R182.00
Mitre Monde Soccer Ball - White
Voted as one of the UK's favourite match balls
R219.00


Comments

More expert analysis and opinion from Sport24
The opinions expressed by Sport24 experts and bloggers are theirs alone, and do not necessarily represent those of SuperSport

Event Streaming

Channel Streaming

Other Live Streaming

Event Streaming

Channel Streaming

Sports Talk



Carol Radull
How do you pay tribute to Thierry Henry?
If you’re a fan of the classic musical “The Sound of Music” then you will be familiar with the...

Dr Errol Sweeney
Some refs invite criticism
Why is it that some referees appear to invite criticism? Why is it that some referees put a...

Neil Tovey
Backing Tinkler for the big time
With Vladimir Vermezovic having jumped ship, Orlando Pirates find themselves in a state of flux.

Chima Emmanuel Aguma
Wenger in or out? I say out!
After Arsenal’s loss to Stoke City this past weekend, the call for Arsene Wenger to step down as...

Sunday Oliseh
Football's new undisputed best club?
When Barcelona appointed Pep Guardiola as head coach in 2008, their primary objective was to stop...

Arjun Vidyarthi
Make or break time
Ten years ago today, I remember Andy Gray's iconic commentary at Anfield, when Steven Gerrard...