Chelsea will not fear Barcelona, says Claudio Ranieri

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SEMI-FINAL FIRST LEG

  • Venue: Stamford Bridge
  • Date: Wednesday, 18 April
  • Kick-off: 1945 BST

Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri insists his old side will not fear holders Barcelona in their Champions League semi-final.

The Blues host Barca on Wednesday with the return in Spain six days later.

Ranieri told BBC Sport: "They will respect Barca but afraid? No. Why? It will be a close match.

"They have had some close matches before - Andres Iniesta scored in the last minute last time - and maybe it will be different this time."

It will be the fifth meeting between the two sides in the knockout stage of Europe's premier club competition and a repeat of a memorable tie at the same stage in 2009, when Iniesta's stoppage-time goal in the second leg at Stamford Bridge put Barcelona through.

Barca are heavy favourites to progress this time, too, but Ranieri feels that if interim Blues boss Roberto di Matteo gets his tactics right the London side can progress.

Chelsea-Barca Champions League meetings

  • 2008-09 semi-final: Barca win on away goals after 1-1 agg
  • 2006-07 group stage: Chelsea win 1-0 (h) & 2-2 draw (a)
  • 2005-06 Last 16: Barca win 3-2 on agg
  • 2004-05 Last 16: Chelsea win 5-4 on agg
  • 1999-2000 quarter-final: Barca win 6-4 on agg AET

"It's not easy because Barcelona are one of the best teams in the world at the moment," added Ranieri. "A lot of their players are in their best moment.

"It is not all about stopping Lionel Messi, because Barca are not only Messi. There is Xavi, there is Iniesta. They have so many great players and it is important that the Chelsea defence is solid under pressure.

"But Chelsea have some good players too. If they play at their maximum then anything is possible.

"How should they approach the game? It would depend. I don't know much about all the Chelsea players now but Di Matteo knows the situation very well.

"Barca will keep the ball so Chelsea should try to attack quickly without worrying about possession, because they are not likely to get much."

The Blues might be underdogs to set up a final against either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich, but Ranieri knows only too well that things do not always go as expected in the Champions League, having twice been on the wrong end of surprise results.

He left Chelsea weeks after his side were beaten by Monaco in the last four of the Champions League in 2004, and the 60-year-old Italian was sacked by Inter Milan last month following their second-round defeat by Marseille.

"Twice Marseille scored injury-time goals - in the first and second legs," Ranieri said. "It was unbelievable and a very unlucky situation for us to have."