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Apr 15, 2009

Cole ban leaves Hiddink with a Messi problem

Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink faces a real headache ahead of the first leg of their Champions League semi-final with Barcelona with no recognised left-back.

Ashley Cole picked up a yellow card against Liverpool meaning he misses the game in the Nou Camp due to rules that state accumulating two yellows in the knockout stages results in a ban.

With Wayne Bridge sold to Manchester City in January and Paulo Ferriera sidelined with a knee injury, it means Hiddink has a serious problem with Lionel Messi in the form of his life on Barcelona's right side.

With Jose Bosingwa expected to return to the side, along with skipper John Terry, it may be that Branislav Ivanovic, who played at right-back against Liverpool, will switch to the opposite flank.

"The left-back situation might cause problems but we have time to think how we might resolve it,'' said Hiddink. "Barcelona are a very advanced team with very skillful players. They know how to handle the pace. I like their philosophy of football.

"They sign players who are attractive to watch. They like to play advanced attacking football and it is difficult to play them because they are a top side.''

Frank Lampard fears the influence Messi will have on Chelsea's Champions League semi-final following the loss of Cole.

"Losing Ashley is a huge blow. He has been absolutely outstanding this season,'' he said. "Lionel Messi is the best player in the world by some distance at the moment and will be on the right wing. If you wanted anyone to play against him it would be Ash.

"Unfortunately he got a yellow card but we have to try and keep together, find someone to come in and do a good job against him for the team.''

Chelsea and Barcelona have met eight times in the Champions League - with four of those matches staged in 2006 - since the turn of the century.

So far the series is even with three wins apiece and two draws but Barcelona are flying this season, six points clear at the summit of La Liga and highly fancied to repeat their success of 1992 and 2006.

Lampard acknowledges Chelsea, who have conceded seven times in their last two matches following last night's enthralling 4-4 draw with Liverpool, must stop leaking goals if they are to prevail.

"We have to look back at the mistakes we make as a group in conceding goals. We have to be strong and we need to tighten up defensively,'' he said. "If we are going to beat Barcelona we need to play at the level we achieved in the first leg against Liverpool when we won 3-1.

"It will be a very tough game because of the way they're playing, but we know what to expect, particularly in the away leg. Barcelona are probably favourites at the moment because of the way they're playing, but being favourites doesn't mean you go through.

"Barcelona are the form team in Europe, if not the world. They've been like that all season so there can't be a tougher match for us in this competition.''

Lampard scored twice on a nailbiting night at Stamford Bridge, including the final goal that ultimately thwarted Liverpool's remarkable fightback.

"There were moments when I couldn't believe what was happening,'' said the England midfielder. "We all had heart attacks on the pitch - as did both sets of staff and fans.

"It was real see-saw stuff. We were comfortable and then nearly out. It was a beautiful game in those terms. It was completely crazy. We didn't want it to be crazy - we wanted it to be much simpler than that.

"After half-time we showed great character and turned it round. We deserved to go through in the end.''

Hiddink admitted that there were times on Tuesday night that he feared Liverpool would pull off the impossible, so much so that there were angry words at half-time towards the players as the Blues trailed 2-0.

"We talked to them, my colleagues talked to them and sometimes you lose a bit of your temper,'' admitted Hiddink. "But they react and they also knew the first-half was not okay.

"But if you give a team like Liverpool too much space then you are in trouble. We were angry because we didn't start as we planned and we know Liverpool are a good team tactically with very skillful players.

"Tactically but also mentally we said to each other, that it was not the way we would start the second-half. That's why I like to work with this team, it reacts.

"We knew that we could score and happily we did rather early after the beginning of the second-half. But you cannot stay angry because then the anger becomes frustration.

"But this was one of those games where players have made a lot of errors. That's why it was very attractive - going from one goal to the other.''

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