We're almost thru the El Clasico gauntlet, just two matches to go. And those two matches carry the highest stakes of all, a place in the Champions League final, a chance to play for the most prestigious club trophy in the world. This is a brief look back at FC Barcelona's history in the Champions League semifinals, the most memorable matches, from an FC Barcelona standpoint.
2009 Champions League semifinals- FC Barcelona vs Chelsea
Ah, the flashpoint for every Barcelona and Chelsea fan. One of the most unforgettable, dramatic (insert other superlatives here) ties in Champions League history. The first leg was uneventful enough (0-0 draw at the Camp Nou).The second leg, is where all the fun began.
Now, onto Tom Henning Ovrebo. He screwed the pooch on this one, from the Chelsea appeals for penalties to the ridiculous sending off of Eric Abidal. Mind you, since then he has screwed up some more (Bayern Munich-Fiorentina come to mind). It's a wonder how this guy still has a job. Nonetheless, Barcelona went on to beat then-defending champions Manchester United in the final 2-0.
2006 Champions League semifinals- FC Barcelona vs AC Milan
It had been 14 years since Barcelona won their only Champions League title (European Cup) and they were prohibitive favorites to win this year. They had knocked out the English champions and fellow favorites Chelsea and round of 16 and were on their way to another La Liga title. On their way to Paris though, they faced Italian giants AC Milan.
On the first leg at the San Siro, Milan came out firing, with Gilardino coming closest to scoring, hitting the post. Barcelona tried to navigate the Italian backline, with not much success, and as the first half came to a close, Milan clearly had the upper hand. In ties as closely fought as this one though, it takes one piece of magic to make a difference, and so it came from the foot of the imperious Ronaldinho, finished off by Giuly for the only goal of the first leg, and as it turns out, the only goal of the tie. The second leg ended in a drab 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou, Barcelona dominating but failing to find an insurance goal. In the end though, they did not need one. They advance to the Champions League final in Paris, where they would beat Arsenal 2-1.
2000 Champions League semifinals- FC Barcelona vs Valencia CF
Lest my objectivity be questioned (on second thought, this is a Barcelona blog so if my Barcelona colored-glasses blind you, that's too damn bad) I decided to include this tie. This is actually a personal favorite of mine, featuring two of the most entertaining Spanish sides during a good year in Spanish football (three of the four teams in the CL semifinals were Spanish, and Deportivo La Coruna won La Liga that year). The part where Barcelona lost sucked, but the attacking football played by both sides (and the atmosphere at the Mestalla) was as good as I've seen.
In the first leg at the Mestalla, Valencia overwhelmed the Catalan giants on their own attacking game. Led by the brilliant Gaizka Mendieta, Valencia rendered Rivaldo invisible and bombarded Ruud Hesp's goal. Valencia won 4-1, with goals from Angulo (2), Mendieta and Claudio Lopez. The second leg was basically a matter of pride for Barcelona, which they won 2-1, but not enough to get into the final. Valencia would go on to lose to Real Madrid 3-0 in the CL final.