Valencia hurdle confronts Chelsea
Chelsea FC have faced Spanish opposition in each of the past two UEFA Champions League knockout stage campaigns and Valencia CF, another representative from the Primera División, now bar the London club's passage to a third semi-final in the competition in the past four seasons.
• It was FC Barcelona who stood in the way last season and also in 2004/05 – both encounters coming in the first knockout round - with José Mourinho's side enjoying contrasting fortunes. They claimed an aggregate victory in their first meeting but tasted defeat 12 months later. The tie with Valencia will be the first meeting between the clubs in UEFA competition.
• While the custom is to prefer to play away in the first leg, Chelsea believe that Stamford Bridge is a stronghold for them and can provide the means to climb this hurdle. They have lost here only once in 14 UEFA Champions League outings under Mourinho – to Barcelona 13 months ago - and have conceded goals in only two of their last nine home games in the competition.
• The second occasion came four weeks ago when Ricardo Quaresma scored to give FC Porto the overall lead 15 minutes into the second game. Chelsea had to wait until the start of the second half to respond through Arjen Robben and Michael Ballack's volley eleven minutes from time then ensured a fourth win in the same number of games on home soil in this season's competition and sent Mourinho's men through at the expense of his former club.
• In this season's group campaign Chelsea were once again paired with Barcelona and their 1-0 home victory, secured by Didier Drogba's wonderful strike early in the second half, helped dim the memory of their opponents' victory last season. That was also Chelsea's first home defeat against Spanish opponents in UEFA competition; their record now reads P8 W6 D1 L1.
• Two significant victories against Spanish opponents came on neutral soil. Chelsea played Real Madrid CF in the 1970/71 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final in Athens with Chelsea winning the replay 2-1 after a 1-1 draw. The teams also met in the 1998 UEFA Super Cup in Monaco, Chelsea winning 1-0.
• When Chelsea were last in the quarter-finals two years ago, a 4-2 home victory against FC Bayern München set them up for a 6-5 aggregate success. Their progress was halted at the next stage by Premiership rivals Liverpool FC.
• Valencia owe their place in the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2002/03 campaign - when they bowed out to FC Internazionale Milano - principally to the away goals scored by David Villa and David Silva in the 2-2 draw against the same opponents in the first leg of the first knockout round tie. That result meant they have lost just one of four games away from Spain in this season's campaign - not including the third qualifying round tie which saw them go down 1-0 away to FC Salzburg - and only one of their last six away games in the competition proper.
• With the return leg at the Mestalla Stadium ending 0-0, Sánchez Flores' team made progress at the expense of the Serie A leaders and remained on track to go one better than their two UEFA Champions League final disappointments in 2000 and 2001.
• The resilience they showed over those two games - they were twice behind at San Siro - was similar to the qualities they had called upon to remain unbeaten on their last three visits to England in the UEFA Champions League. In 2002/03 they won 1-0 at Liverpool FC and drew 0-0 away to Arsenal FC in the first and second group stages respectively; their progress came to an end in the quarter-finals when Inter went through on away goals after the teams finished 2-2 on aggregate. Two seasons before they had drawn 0-0 at the home of Leeds United AFC in the semi-final before winning the home leg 3-0.
• In that 2000/01 campaign Valencia had faced English opponents in three successive rounds, drawing 1-1 away to Manchester United FC in the second group stage before losing 2-1 at Highbury in the quarter-finals, a result which did not impair their progress as they won the home leg 1-0 to go through on away goals.
• Draws have featured most prominently in their visits to England in UEFA competition. Of the eleven trips they have made, six have ended all-square with only the recent game at Anfield featuring a victory.
• They owed their first two European trophies – the 1979/80 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup and the UEFA Super Cup the following season - to victories against English opposition, seeing off Arsenal in the first instance following a penalty shoot-out, and then triumphing on away goals over Nottingham Forest FC.
• Parma FC coach Claudio Ranieri provides a link between the teams, and he was the predecessor for each of the current coaches. He lifted the Copa del Rey in the first of two spells at Valencia, while in between he had four seasons at Chelsea, guiding them to the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League semi-finals.
• Asier del Horno knows all about Chelsea, with the Valencia left-back having spent last season in west London. Team-mates Edu, Hugo Viana and Fernando Morientes, formerly of Arsenal FC, Newcastle United FC and Liverpool FC respectively, also have plenty of Premiership experience.
• The return match will be played at the Mestalla Stadium on 10 April with the winners facing either Liverpool FC or PSV Eindhoven in the semi-finals on 24/25 April and 1/2 May.
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