The time for the healing of the wounds has come, The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us
’. – Nelson Mandela.

It would be fair to say that Nelson Mandela packed a fair amount of significant events into his 95 years on planet earth, all the more remarkable when you consider he spent almost a third of that incarcerated in various prisons throughout South Africa.

Many tributes, accolades and celebrations have been given to a hugely significant figure throughout the years during his incredible life – but it is his quote at the top of the piece which was most striking, the most relevant in terms of what the next 28 days hold for Chelsea Football Club in 2018.

The time to build is now, and to build on the recent two fixtures, Monday night saw the Blues back on track following two disastrous performances both home and away to Bournemouth and Watford respectively – a comfortable 3-0 victory over bottom side West Bromwich Albion couldn’t have come at a better time, considering that all our rivals for a Top Four spot all secured victories, it wasn’t the most convincing of displays, but from what went before, all that mattered was that victory was secured, no matter how the team performed, and Fridays home victory over Hull in the FA Cup still ensured that there is still a lot of battles to fight for on three fronts.

Next up is the meeting of an old foe; a foe which has produced many intriguing battles in recent years. – that foe being FC Barcelona.

Since Chelsea and Barcelona first met back in 1966 in the now defunct Fairs Cup, the statistics for both sides reads W5 D5 L5, the sides can’t even be split on statistics; in terms of overall history, stadia, trophies and everything else in between then there is a clear division, but when it comes down to 90 minutes on a football pitch, with the wealth of talent on display, the sides cannot be split – in recent years it has one year Chelsea go through and next time the sides meet then vice versa and Barcelona progress, as was the case in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2012.

For the last time the sides met in 2012, Chelsea produced one of the best comebacks an English side has produced away from home in Europe in recent memory – Spurs are trying to wrestle that following their fightback in Turin, nice try.

Let us here at HOF look back on two classics between the sides at Stamford Bridge over the years.

5th April 2000 – Chelsea 3-1 Barcelona – Champions League Quarter Final

Chelsea’s debut season in the European Cup/Champions League had already seen some of the greatest performances in the club’s history up until this point – Dennis Wise equaliser in the San Siro perhaps being the most significant.

But Barcelona rolled into West London as pre-tournament favourites, and fielding a side which featured Frank De Boer, Carlos Puyol, Phillip Cocu, Luis Figo, Patrick Kluivert, Rivaldo and an up and coming Xavi, it is clear to see why such an assertion was made.

The game, and Chelsea, in particular, started off like a bullet train, Gianluca Vialli set his players to get amongst Barcelona early and take the game to them, and his players carried out his instructions to the letter – and produced one of the great European nights Stamford Bridge has ever witnessed.

Gianfranco Zola, as he had done throughout his Chelsea career got the ball rolling with a trademark free-kick which gave Ruud Hesp no chance, the ball was in the moment left his boot.

With the Stamford Bridge faithful just catching their breath, Chelsea went two up; Deschamps fed a sumptuous ball into Zola on the edge of the box, the Italian with clear space to run into squared the ball to Tore Andre Flo who produced an audacious flick to beat the goalkeeper and for the Blues into a scarcely believable 2-0 lead.

For if Chelsea supporters, at the Bridge or watching at home thought it couldn’t get any better, then four minutes later it did just that.

A long clearance from the impressive Deschamps found Tore Andre Flo in space just outside the penalty area, Flo timed his run to perfection, splitting the two centre-backs and meeting the ball to produce an unbelievable chip to beat Hesp and send the crowd in to complete raptures; within 40 minutes, Chelsea were 3-0 and cruising against Barcelona.

After the re-start, Barcelona regrouped and looked to find a way back into the match and try to salvage something, and salvage something they did.

Luis Figo started and finished a move of precision passing, feeding the ball to Rivaldo, the Brazilian played the ball out wide to Jari Litmanen, who produced a wonderful cross into Figo inside the six-yard box and the Portuguese playmaker made no mistake in beating Ed De Goey.

The away goal proved decisive as Barcelona overturned the 1st leg deficit in the Camp Nou, winning 5-1 on the night and 6-4 on aggregate.

8th March 2005 – Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona – Champions League Last 16

Five years on from their last visit, both Chelsea and Barcelona would be right in thinking that a case of deja vu was in the in air around SW6, as Chelsea yet again raced into an early three-goal lead – the only difference from five years previously was that this time around, the match at Stamford Bridge was the 2nd leg and what happened on the night would decide each sides fate.

Having trailed from a highly controversial 1st leg in Spain, Jose Mourinho was clear what he wanted from his players – a quick turnaround and to establish themselves against their feared opponents, like Gianluca Vialli before him, Mourinho’s side followed the managers instructions to the letter and within 26 breathtaking first-half minutes, Chelsea had turned the tie on its head.

Eidur Gudjohnsen got the ball rolling in the seventh minute; after excellent work winning the ball back in midfield by Frank Lampard, who in turn set Kezman free down the right hand side, who produced a magnificent ball to Gudjohnsen on the edge of the ball, the Icelandic striker cut inside the full back and produced a dinked finish to beat Valdes in the Barcelona goal.

1-0 quickly became 2-0; Joe Cole beat Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and cut in from the right-hand side to produce a shot which Valdes could only parry to the feet of Frank Lampard who had scored perhaps one of the easiest goals he ever scored for Chelsea; Stamford Bridge was ecstatic and the best was yet to come – for two minutes later it was 3-0.

After a one-two in the middle of the park between Lampard and Cole, Cole swept a forward pass into the feet of Damien Duff, keeping a cool head, the Irishman placed a wonderful shot under the oncoming Valdes to put Chelsea into dreamland.

Like dreams, they can turn into a nightmare; a cross into the area looked like it was being dealt with, but the cross was met with the hand of Paulo Ferreira and Pierluigi Collina quickly pointed to the spot, Ronaldinho duly dispatched the spot kick to bring Barcelona back in to the tie and ten minutes later, the Brazilian scored one of the iconic Champions League goals, a goal to fit his World Player of the Year status.

After a ball fell to the youthful Andres Iniesta, he fed Ronaldinho on the edge of the area, Ronaldinho then bamboozled Ricardo Carvalho with leg movement without touching the ball, the Brazilian then stabbed a wonderous shot past the stranded Petr Cech – Stamford Bridge fell silent, almost in awe of what they had witnessed.

The tie had swung back in the Catalans favour, Chelsea had to find a hero in their midst, and who better than Captain Leader Legend.

After a pulsating first half, the second half was rather subdued by comparison as both sides were caught between a rock and a hard place in whether to stick or twist; for Chelsea, they had to twist at some point, and in the dealer produced Blackjack from a corner.

A corner from the left-hand side found John Terry, who, throughout his Chelsea career produced a moment of importance, a moment which pulled Chelsea through when it looked liked it all hope had gone – the captain rose highest to meet the corner and swing the advantage back in Chelsea’s favour.

Chelsea hung on for a famous victory to send the crowd and every Chelsea supporter into total euphoria, Chelsea had started to reach the top table at European Football’s classiest diner.

So the time is now upon us, a season-defining month; the wounds of the past weeks are beginning to heal with recent victories, so the time is now to bridge the chasm between generations of supporters and all get behind the team, the manager and the club as a whole.

It is now down to Antonio Conte and the players to build on recent results – but whatever happens, we are all in this together.

The time to build is upon us.