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Guardiola's 'struggling' to plot Chelsea's downfall

PEP Guardiola last night lavished praise on Chelsea's ageing stars and claimed he is struggling to formulate a plan to see off the Blues and earn his Barcelona team a place in their eighth European Cup final.

Chelsea will face their biggest task of the season tonight when they host Guardiola's all-conquering side in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final at Stamford Bridge.

Upon taking charge last summer, Andre Villas-Boas embarked on a new project to faze out Chelsea's veterans such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba and introduce a new crop of hungry young stars in their place.

Unfortunately, the move backfired, with Villas-Boas leaving the club last month after a dreadful run of form and reports of player disharmony.

His successor, Roberto Di Matteo, has turned to Chelsea's trusted lieutenants since the 34-year-old's departure and the move has worked, with the club winning nine of the Italian's 12 games in charge.

Many claim Lampard, 33, Drogba, 34, and John Terry, 31, are on the wane, but Guardiola disagrees.

"I do admire that generation of players," Guardiola said. "They have done so well over the last seven years, got into so many semi-finals and finals, and competed in the Premier League so well."


Despite being four points behind leaders Real Madrid in La Liga, Barcelona have played some of the best football the world has ever seen this year and, with the likes of Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi, it is easy to see why they are overwhelming favourites to progress.

But Chelsea's recent resurgence has left Guardiola with worries.

Guardiola added: "Maybe they do not have the consistency in the league but in competitions like this they are one of the best teams in the world.

"I saw what they did against Tottenham," Guardiola added, referring to Chelsea's 5-1 win over their rivals at Wembley on Sunday.

"Everyone wants to beat Barcelona and play well against us, because we are the current holders but I am struggling to see how we are going to hurt them and how we are going to create chances to score goals."