Goals expected for Europe's elite
© AFP

Drawn together for the fourth time in the last five seasons, Barcelona and Chelsea face off in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-finals on Tuesday evening. The Spaniards are widely regarded as the tournament favourites, while the Londoners will be aiming to go one better than last season, when they finished runners-up.

The scene is set for a spectacular and unpredictable affair between the two, if previous encounters are any indication. Barça have advanced from two of the last three knockout meetings, however each match has been close and highly entertaining, producing 24 goals in all.

En route to what is their third semi in four seasons Pep Guardiola's side beat Lyon 6-3 on aggregate in the last 16 before downing Bayern Munich 5-1 in the quarter-finals. For their part the Blues checked into the last four courtesy of a hard-fought 3-2 aggregate defeat of Juventus in the first knockout round, and then a thrilling 7-5 win over Liverpool in the last eight.

The match
Barcelona have been unstoppable at home in the competition this season, scoring 16 goals in five matches at their Nou Camp fortress, an average of 3.20 goals per game. Their ultra-attacking approach presents a number of threats to opposing sides, although Chelsea will be hoping to exploit a perceived weakness in the centre of the Barça defence.

Even so Guus Hiddink's side will need to make sure they do not leave themselves over-exposed at the back, where they will be deprived of the suspended Ashley Cole and the injured Ricardo Carvalho. However, as they showed at Anfield in the previous round, the men in blue are more than capable of pulling off unlikely results in the most hostile of arenas.

Player to watch
Argentinian ace Lionel Messi will be Barcelona's main offensive weapon as usual. With first-choice left-back Cole unavailable, the task of blunting the threat posed by the diminutive wizard will fall to either Portuguese international Jose Bosingwa or the 21-year-old English defender Michael Mancienne.

Worryingly for Guus Hiddink, the naturally right-sided Bosingwa has only just returned from injury and was given a stern examination by West Ham's Kieron Dyer on Saturday, while Mancienne has started Chelsea's last three matches, though all of them at right-back.

The other duel to follow pits together two of African football's biggest stars of the last decade, as seasoned sharpshooters Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba vie to outdo each other in the goalscoring stakes.

The stat
Barcelona have won four of the nine semi-finals they have contested in the competition and Chelsea just one out of four. Barcelona have a poor record in meetings with English opposition at this stage of the tournament, having lost four out of five ties, while Chelsea have recorded three wins and four defeats against Spanish opposition.

What they said
"We should not go there and sit back and wait until the storm hits. We must take what is in our team and do some harm as well." Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink.