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Apr 17, 2012

Alves: Chelsea 'lack courage'

Barcelona defender Dani Alves has turned up the heat ahead of Wednesday's Champions League semi-final with Chelsea, claiming the Premier League side play with fear and lack courage.

• Chelsea face injury problems
• Blog: Chelsea talking points

Alves opened old wounds and claimed it wasn't the four plausible penalty appeals turned down by Norwegian referee Tom Henning Ovrebo that denied Chelsea victory when the two sides met at this stage of Europe's flagship competition in 2009, but the Blues unwillingness to attack despite being 1-0 up against ten-man.

Chelsea's then-boss Guus Hiddink claimed Ovrebo's performance in that semi-final second leg at Stamford Bridge was "the worst I have ever seen'' by a referee, and Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa were both sanctioned for protesting at the final whistle.

Andres Iniesta's stoppage-time strike earned Barcelona a 1-1 draw to send them through on away goals and Alves told The Guardian: "There is no doubt that was the hardest game we have played, with everything that was at stake, the moment and everything that happened.

"People say Chelsea could have won but for the referee but that is not our problem. We do not control the referees. We are there to play football, to compete and to try to reach the final. What can we do about the referee?

"Chelsea did not reach the final because of fear. The team that has got a man more, is playing at home and winning should have attacked us more. But of course, if you don't have that [attacking] concept of football that Barcelona have, you stay back and you get knocked out.

"You have to go forward. Stay back: losers. Go forward: winners. I think Chelsea lacked the courage to take a step forward and attack us. They paid for it."

Barcelona midfielder Iniesta is anticipating another tough night against Chelsea, but is hoping for a similar outcome to their last visit to Stamford Bridge.

The Spain international said: "It's painful to be knocked out so close to the final. Now we are facing each other again and undoubtedly their desire to beat us and be in the Champions League final will be significant.

"We hope that things will turn out well for us again this time.

"We are going there with the intention of winning, to have a good game and commit as few mistakes as possible, as in the Champions League they are very costly. We always go out to win. We know that it is a knock-out tie and there is a return game, but our only intention is to win.

"It will be a tough 90 minutes. Chelsea are more experienced now, inevitably, and they have also changed some players. They have Fernando (Torres), (Juan) Mata and some other young players. Chelsea were very strong that year and the will be this year as well.

"They are very dangerous, very intense, and that will by multiplied in their stadium due to the atmosphere. We are expecting a very tough tie.''

Iniesta also warned of the threat posed by some of Chelsea elder statesmen, such as Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard.

"They are dangerous for who they are, not because they are older or that it could be their last opportunity to win the Champions League,'' he said.

"You have to respect them because they are great players and right now are in a very good moment. I think it's going to be a very nice tie.''

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