Former Barca midfielder believes that the Catalans will make the most of home comforts to bounce back from their 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge and secure a place in final
By Rob Stewart
Former Barcelona midfielder Gaizka Mendieta has backed Lionel Messi to fire the Spanish side to a place in the Champions League final at the expense of Chelsea.
Fifa World Player of the Year Messi has failed to score in seven meetings with the Blues but Mendieta believes that he can still help Barcelona overcome a one-goal deficit from the first leg when the clubs meet in their Camp Nou showdown on Tuesday.
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"I know Lionel Messi has never scored against Chelsea but there is no special reason for that," Mendieta told Goal.com.
"He is marked closely whenever he plays. It is just a coincidence. He will be very dangerous at Camp Nou because Barcelona’s style is more suited to the home ground.
"Messi is so special because he makes things look so easy. He is unbelievable. He is so clever. Even when he is faced with two or three defenders he goes around them as if they aren’t there.
"Plus he is switched on in every single game. He wants to play in every game. He never stops playing incredible football and that is what makes him such an outstanding player."
Former Spanish international Mendieta spent the 2002/3 season loan at Camp Nou after helping Valencia reach two Champions League finals and he believes that home comforts will prove decisive ahead of Tuesday's second leg.
"The key thing for Barcelona is that the second leg is in Spain and that is a disadvantage for Chelsea although we have seen Chelsea play at Camp Nou and do well in the past," added Mendieta, who also played for Lazio and Middlesbrough.
"So I think we are going to witness a great semi-final. It will be fascinating and very tense because there is a place in the final at stake.
"The pitch is a lot bigger and they use the space very effectively, especially with people like Daniel Alves who plays like a winger when he goes forward. When they play at home it seems more difficult for the opponents to stop Barcelona getting space when they are attacking.
"Plus having all their supporters behind them will not only encourage them but it could also put off the Chelsea players but they are very experienced and that will be helpful to them."
The 2009 semi-final between the two sides was overshadowed by controversial refereeing decisions but Mendieta is hoping that there is no repeat this time around.
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"The main thing is that I hope it won’t be decided by a refereeing decision because I don’t like to speak about referees," Mendieta continued.
"It is a tough job for them and I prefer it if we just talk about football and not controversy although unfortunately there always seems to be controversy in football.
"Ultimately, I think Barcelona will go through. I am not so sure about whether they will go on to win it because Real Madrid are playing very well and Bayern Munich are a very good team as well and they would have home advantage in the final if they got through."
Mendieta will be back on his old Teesside stamping ground when he is among 2012 runners in the SABIC 5k Riverside Run in Middlesbrough on Sunday, May 13. For details go to visit www.runmiddlesbrough.com.