Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match between FC Barcelona and AC Milan. Barcelona play Chelsea on April 18, 2012. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
Chelsea and Barcelona managers Roberto Di Matteo and Pep Guardiola have a variety of big choices to make ahead of their UEFA Champions League tie.
Tuesday's UEFA Champions League semifinal featured some straightfoward team selections. Bayern Munich made one big change against Real Madrid, taking out Thomas Müller, but the majority of both lineups and both teams' shapes were set well in advance. On Wednesday, a completely different kind of match is expected to unfold. Pep Guardiola and Roberto Di Matteo might have gone to bed on Tuesday night still unsure about the players and formation they were going to select.
They at least know where their sides stand. Both teams have huge must-win domestic clashes on Saturday and have to keep player fitness in mind. David Luiz is injured for Chelsea, while Barcelona are still dealing with the effects of Eric Abidal's absence from the team. Neither side will have their first-choice back line when all players currently under contract are fit, which should make for a fun match.
Guardiola could opt for a three- or four-man back line, and he could opt to start either Carles Puyol or Adriano at left back. Who knows which one of Cesc Fabregas, Pedro Rodríguez or Thiago Alcântara will start the match. Guardiola has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal.
Di Matteo also has tough decisions to make and plenty of options for his team, though he doesn't have the luxury of benching a player like Fabregas. Salomon Kalou has performed well since Di Matteo took over the team, and Ramires' move to the right-wing spot that he played for Benfica has paid off as well. Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are virtual locks to start due to experience and their likely desire for "revenge" against Barcelona for their Champions League loss three years ago, while Ramires and Juan Mata are in excellent form. The other front six spots are up for grabs, with Kalou and John Obi Mikel good bets to fill out the team.
Projected Barcelona Lineup (4-3-3): Victor Valdés; Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Daniel Alves; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta; Cesc Fabregas, Lionel Messi, Alexis Sánchez
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, April 18, 2:45 p.m. ET, 7:45 p.m. local
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, England
TV: FX (U.S. - English), FOX Deportes (U.S. - Spanish), Sportsnet regional networks (Canada), ITV 1 (U.K.)
We'll have continuous pre-game updates and live game coverage in our Chelsea vs. Barcelona, UEFA Champions League Semifinals StoryStream. For more on the two teams, head over to Chelsea FC blog We Ain't Got No History and FC Barcelona blog Barca Blaugranes.