Chelsea will be looking to cause an upset against Barcelona to enhance their impressive record against the Catalan club and get off to a decent start in the first leg of the Champions League round-16 tie.
After a somewhat turbulent period, the West London appears to have steadied their stormy ship over a recent couple of weeks. After that mortifying loss at Vicarage Road, the Blues pounded West Brom by three goals to nil, before giving out a beating to Hull City in the FA Cup. Neither of those fixtures was especially testing for Antonio Conte’s men, at the same time, they took care of business in a convincing style and will have to reestablish some confidence ahead of this heavyweight clash.
Like Chelsea, Barcelona haven’t precisely been in a good run of form as of late, as they too have suffered a couple less than impressive results. A 1-1 draw against Espanyol few weeks prior was frustrating, just like their 0-0 home draw against Getafe not as much as a fortnight back. A 2-0 away win at Eibar on Saturday wasn’t too convincing either, but any reasonable person would agree that Ernesto Valverde’s side had one eye on Tuesday’s clash with the Premier League champions.
Barcelona are quite often favourited ahead of a 90-minute game and this clash is of no different. Regardless of playing far from home, the Catalan outfit have been installed as both the top picks to win the first leg and the favourite to advance to the next round of the competition. In truth, given Chelsea’s current woes, this is difficult to contend with. But, as the West London outfit have not been firing on all barrels, they’re perhaps too short to be picked as a top choice.
Despite the fact that the Blaugrana do have some of the best players in world football, and for sure the world’ single best player (depending on who you ask obviously!), they’ve had a tendency to abstain from overwhelming teams generally this season.
When seeing the current Barca squad, you nearly get the feeling that they’re essentially doing the absolute minimum to spare themselves for later difficulties, as the fact that they’ve won by more than one goal in just two of their last seven games.
On the off chance that the Spaniards attempt to do the absolute minimum at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night, they could without much of a stretch be rebuffed.
In spite of the above, Barcelona remains a side favoured with incredible attacking quality. Regardless of whether they do avoid from going out, hard and fast in the first leg, Barca should have enough about them to score an away goal. At the opposite end of the pitch, this is a Barca side that can be caught out defensively, as a couple of teams in Spain have proved in recent week.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last seven Champions League games against Barcelona (W2 D5).
- Barcelona have won only one of their six away games against Chelsea in the Champions League (D1 L4), it was in February 2006 (2-1). They have also never kept a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge.
- Barcelona have reached the Champions League semi-finals only once in the last four seasons. They had made it to the semis in each of the previous six campaigns.
- Lionel Messi has played 655 minutes against Chelsea in the Champions League but has yet to score. Against no other team has he played that many minutes without ever finding the net?
- Luis Suarez has failed to score in the last 791 minutes of play in the Champions League, his longest drought in the competition. His last goal dates back to March 2017 against PSG
Prediction: Barca Win
Potential Chelsea Lineups: Courtois; Rudiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard.
Potential Barcelona Lineups: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Paulinho, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Suarez, Messi.