Chelsea would be looking to gain some advantage in the home leg as they host Barcelona in the Round of 16 tie of the UEFA Champions League.
Chelsea have had a rough couple of months. But, the Blues have come to form of late, with two thumping wins over West Brom and Hull City respectively. Antonio Conte will now be looking for his side to repeat the heroics of their 2011/12 UEFA Champions League campaign as they face Barcelona.
Barcelona themselves, seem to have been stuttering a bit in their recent matches, with two draws in succession. But, a 2-0 win away at Eibar sees the Blaugrana travel to England with at least a bit of momentum, despite not looking convincing in the victory over the weekend.
The last time these two teams met at Stamford Bridge in the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea eked out a 1-0 win over Barcelona, which proved to be the difference over the two legs and saw Chelsea book their place in the final of the competition and ultimately, win the entire thing.
Ahead of their latest meeting, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
David Luiz and Ross Barkley are doubts for the Tuesday fixture. But, Antonio Conte has confirmed that Marcos Alonso will be fit in time to face Barcelona, despite missing the last 3 matches. Another player that has been on the sidelines is Tiemoue Bakayoko and he is unlikely to feature on Tuesday.
One of the main decisions Antonio Conte has to take is his choice of the striker. Alvaro Morata has returned, but looked a bit of short of fitness when coming on for Olivier Giroud against Hull City. It will be interesting to see if Conte gambles on Morata’s fitness or whether he does go with the safer option of Giroud upfront.
The Italian could very well spring up a surprise with an attacking lineup, with Morata and Giroud both starting upfront. But, Conte has iterated that, to start both upfront, he has to use three midfielders, which will see Hazard and other wide players drop out of the lineup.
And with Hazard likely to be one of the key players during the visit of Barcelona, the pairing of Morata and Giroud seems unlikely.
Andreas Christensen has impressed a lot and he will start again at the back, with Cesc Fabregas likely to be preferred as the partner to N’Golo Kante.
Probable Lineup (3-4-2-1): Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Hazard, Willian; Giroud
Philippe Coutinho is ineligible to take the field for Barcelona, having already featured for Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League this season. Nelson Semedo is another absentee, with the Portuguese serving his suspension. Thomas Vermaelen is set to travel to England with the side, but is unlikely to feature, with his fitness still an issue.
With Semedo out, Sergi Roberto is guaranteed a start at right-back while the ineligibility of Coutinho should see Ousmane Dembele start out wide for Barcelona. It will be interesting to see the formation Ernesto Valverde goes with.
The manager has, in the recent matches, preferred a 4-4-2 but should revert to a 4-3-3 on their trip to Stamford Bridge to provide more impetus in attack.
Barcelona like to build from the back but, when playing a 4-4-2, they have often shown their impeccable ability to counter. With a 4-3-3 likely, the fans should be in for a footballing treat at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Umtiti, Pique, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Dembele, Suarez, Messi
1. Barcelona have managed to beat Chelsea just once in their last 5 trips to Stamford Bridge in the Champions League, in 2006, in a 2-1 win, thanks to a John Terry own goal and Samuel Eto’o.
2. Scoring Blues – Interestingly, Lionel Messi has struggled against Chelsea, with the Argentine superstar yet to open his account against the Blues in 8 competitive games to date.
3. The struggle is not limited to scoring but recording a win as well, with Messi ending up on the winning side on just one of the 8 occasions, with 5 draws and 2 losses.
4. Luis Suarez comes into the game on the back of some form in the league, with 11 goals and 3 assists in his last 10 La Liga games.
5. Chelsea have managed to get on the scoresheet on each of their last 5 matchups at home against Barcelona.
Player to Watch
Perhaps, the one true Kryptonite to date for the Argentine; Messi would love to get this record of not scoring against Chelsea out of the way over the two legs. The little magician has been the prime creator and finisher on most occasions for Barcelona and he will be wanting to do more of it against Chelsea.
Ideally, this could be the tie where we see Lionel Messi being unleashed upon the Chelsea lineup.
Chelsea 1-3 Barcelona
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side does not like to set up defensively, as the Blues have done in their previous meetings against Barcelona, which is likely to play in the visitors’ favour. While the Blues should be able to breach the Barcelona defence on Tuesday, we expect Lionel Messi to put on a show.
A Messi masterclass against Chelsea is long overdue and chances are, we could see that on Tuesday. We tip a comfortable 3-1 win for Barcelona, with Messi getting on the scoresheet, perhaps, on more than one occasion.