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Chelsea-Barcelona Part 1

For the third year running, English champion Chelsea is playing a home-and-away series against Spanish champion Barcelona in the Champions League, but this time, both coaches promised a "gentler" rematch between the familiar adversaries. Going into Wednesday's game, Barcelona, last year's Champions League winner, led the series with two wins, a draw and a loss in what were four heated, controversial matches. Unlike those occasions, this year's pair of clashes come in the group stage, which both coaches feel eases the pressure somewhat, since both teams look comfortably positioned to qualify for the knockout stages. "We are talking about a group stage game," said Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, "and it gives us the opportunity to see some great football, calmer football." To be sure, the build-up to today's encounter was less bitter, something Barca coach Frank Rijkaard believes comes down to the injuries sustained by Chelsea's top two goalkeepers over the weekend. "Maybe that's why people within Chelsea are calmer," Rijkaard suggested, wishing first-choice keeper Petr Cech, who suffered a very serious skull fracture against Reading on Saturday, a speedy recovery. Mourinho insisted that third-string goalkeeper Hilario would be up for his first Champions League match for the Sky Blues. Barcelona, meanwhile, was missing Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o, who is still several months away from returning from a knee injury.

Read the whole story at The Guardian »

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