The ref must be strong! Cech says official will play key role in Chelsea's Euro dream
22:30 GMT, 23 April 2012
Petr Cech has claimed referee Cuneyt Cakir could be a key figure in Chelsea's quest to beat Barcelona and reach the Champions League final.
Cech called for a strong performance in the Nou Camp and turned up the heat on Cakir, the 35-year-old Turk who will be in charge of his first Champions League knockout tie.
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'The referee can be a big part of the game,' said the Chelsea goalkeeper. 'You could see that in the past. There were great games between us and Barcelona but there was controversy, over-shadowing the great games. We have an experienced Turkish referee and, if you have experience refereeing Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, a game between Chelsea and Barcelona should be fine. I'm sure he will have the same professional approach as we had in the first game, which was without controversy.'
Cakir's appointment has added fuel to conspiracy theories because it was made by a committee headed by Senes Erzik, also a Turk, with business connections to Barca's sponsors Unicef.
Fever pitch: Chelsea prepare at the Nou Camp for tonight's crunch tie
Jose Mourinho caused a storm last year when he questioned the link between Erzik and Barcelona after Real Madrid had lost to their Spanish rivals in the Champions League semi-final.
Five Chelsea players are a booking from a ban which would rule them out of the final but Roberto Di Matteo said: 'We will just have to play without thinking about it. They know who is at risk. A lot of them have played here before, so it's not a new environment.
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'We know what to expect. It is going to be a big crowd and we have to make sure we stay cool on the pitch.'
Di Matteo played when Chelsea surrendered a 3-1 first-leg lead to Barcelona in 2000 after a red card for Celestine Babayaro.
Didier Drogba was sent off the last time the Blues lost in the Nou Camp, seven years ago. Other recent clashes have been marred by controversies surrounding referees Anders Frisk and Tom Henning Ovrebo and Barca were unhappy with Drogba's play-acting at Stamford Bridge last week.
Last night, with tongue in cheek, Barca defender Gerard Pique said: 'Every time Drogba fell down it was because he was in pain or felt a kick on him.
'I don't think that, when Drogba fell down, he was trying to act or dive. 'If he keeps doing it, you might think that's the case but I believe in his honesty. 'If not, we will start to talk about football being all about cheats. Football is not like that.'