With an away goal advantage to their name, Barcelona host Chelsea at the Nou Camp in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.
Barcelona are currently at the top of the La Liga table with 72 points to their name, 18 points ahead of second placed Atletico Madrid. They have lost only 1 game the entire season and have failed to get on the score-sheet on only four occasions this entire season.
Chelsea are currently fifth in the Premier League, 5 points away from fourth place and twenty five points behind league leaders Manchester City. They’ve lost 10 games this entire season and since the last time they faced Barcelona, they’ve lost two out of their three games.
In the first leg, the Blues took the lead in the 62nd minute. Barcelona were dominating possession as expected but it was Chelsea who had gotten closest to opening the scoring until then. However, a defensive error from Andreas Christensen allowed Lionel Messi to score the all important away goal, which titled the tie in their favour.
Ahead of the second leg, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Tactics & Team News
The Catalan giants welcomed back Andres Iniesta to first team training today, something that will undoubtedly come as a huge boost for for Ernesto Valverde and his men. Ousmane Dembele has also returned from injury and could feature in his first Champions League game since September.
Denis Suarez, Nelson Semedo and Sergi Samper are doubtful as well and Phillippe Coutinho is ineligible to feature in the Champions League. Valverde is expected to revert to the 4-4-2 formation after using a 4-3-3 in last week’s win against Malaga.
Ter Stegen will start in goal, with Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba making up the defence. Paulinho is expected to start on the right flank, with Iniesta returning on the left. Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets are expected to start in the center of midfield.
Lionel Messi will come back into the starting XI and likely set up shop alongside Luis Suarez upfront. There also lies the possibility of starting Ousmane Dembele on the left or right wing, making it a front three. This would allow them to take Chelsea’s back three man for man.
That would however, require sacrificing a central midfielder. Andres Iniesta would be the most likely candidate to be dropped, given that he is only just returning from injury. However, he is indispensable to Barcelona and in such a big game at the Nou Camp, he is almost certain to start.
Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Marc Andre Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba; Paulinho, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta; Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi
Antonio Conte is expected to be without the services of David Luiz and Ross Barkley. Tiemoue Bakayoko has returned from injury and came on during Chelsea’s 2-1 victory against Crystal Palace and might even feature at the Nou Camp.
Antonio Conte is expected to deploy the same 3-4-3 formation, with only maybe 1 major change to the side that started against them at Stamford Bridge. Thibaut Courtois will take his place in goal, with Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta making up the back three.
Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses are likely to start at wing-back, with N’golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas in central midfield. Eden Hazard and Willian are expected to start in attacking midfield, with Olivier Giroud leading the line for the Blues.
Pedro could also start upfront after being dropped against Crystal Palace in a bid to add more pace to their attack to give them an added boost during counter attacks. However, Conte may want to try something different with the Frenchman, who showed great promise in the last game and would also give them an added boost in set pieces.
Probable Starting XI (3-4-2-1): Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’golo Kante, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard
- Chelsea are undefeated in their last 9 matches against FC Barcelona.
- FC Barcelona have drawn their last 4 home matches against Chelsea in all competitions.
- FC Barcelona are undefeated in their last 8 Champions League matches.
- In 13 matches against FC Barcelona, Chelsea have lost only 3 matches, drawing 6 and winning 4.
- The last time FC Barcelona beat Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League was 13 years ago.
Player To Watch
Barcelona: Lionel Messi
The Argentinian finally broke his Chelsea duck when the two sides faced each other at Stamford Bridge and will certainly want to add to his tally. Chances came few and far in between for the Catalan giants, but one mistake was all it required for him to level the scores and give his side the advantage. It should be interesting however, to see if Chelsea are able to keep him quiet on his home turf.
The Brazilian has been in superb form off late and is almost certain to start at the Nou Camp. The 29-year-old has netted 5 goals in Chelsea’s last 5 games across all competitions and is currently having his most prolific season with the Blues and Barcelona will certainly have to watch out for the inform Brazilian tomorrow.
Barcelona 1-0 Chelsea
We predict a narrow victory for Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Chelsea will likely have 9-10 players behind the ball at times and the first priority will be defending. If the first leg is anything to go by, clear cut chances will come few and far in between for the hosts.
While they are certainly capable of pulling off a surprise victory, Chelsea haven’t been in the best form off late and the Blues can do only so much to keep Lionel Messi & co out. We expect the Blues defence to give away at some point, but they certainly won’t make it easy on Valverde’s men.