Barcelona looked to be facing a much more difficult task back in February when they played Chelsea at Stamford Bridge than the one they have now. They went into the final 15 minutes 1-0 down, facing the prospect of having to play the second leg a goal down and without an away goal to their name. However, that man Lionel Messi popped up again with an equalizer, and now the ball is firmly in Barcelona’s court.
The weekend saw Messi miss out due to the birth of his child, and whilst they did beat Malaga 2-0 in that game there is no doubt that the Argentine will be back in the starting lineup come Wednesday, and the fact that he hasn’t played in a week will be a worry to Antonio Conte.
Barcelona are now unbeaten in their last 14 competitive games since a shock loss to Catalan rivals Espanyol in the Copa del Rey. They bounced back from that first leg loss to progress in that competition, and they have won nine of their 14 games since that loss.
Away from home, it’s even worse for The Blues. They have lost four games in a row on the road and won just two of their last 11 in all competitions. They also lost 3-0 at Roma earlier on in the Champions League, so the signs look pretty ominous for them.
One of Barcelona’s key tactics this season has been to come out of the blocks fast, trying to secure a lead before finishing the game off later on. This has, quite unsurprisingly, often worked, and 14 of their 21 home games have seen them go into the break ahead. They have won every single one of these games too.
It’s hard to look beyond Lionel Messi too. The Barcelona talisman is the second highest scorer in Champions League history, and he has netted 28 goals in La Liga and the Champions League this season. 18 of these have come at the Camp Nou, in just 16 appearances as well. He will obviously be the biggest threat to Chelsea here, and we’re backing him for our anytime goalscorer predictions on Wednesday.
- Six of the last seven meetings between these sides have ended all square, with Chelsea winning the other one back in April 2012.
- Barcelona has won 86% of their home games in all competitions this season, and have been ahead at the break in 67% of their home games, and have gone on to win 100% of these games.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last seven Champions League games against Barcelona (W2 D5).
- Barcelona has 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 has 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.
- Barcelona haven’t beaten a Chelsea team with 11 men since May 1966.
- Chelsea have been shown four red cards in Champions League games against Barcelona, accounting for 33 per cent of their total red cards in the competition.
PREDICTION: Barca Win
WHAT THE COACH ARE SAYING
Chelsea Boss Antonio Conte :
“In the first leg we played a really good game – almost a perfect game – against a team I consider one of the best in the world.
“The final result gives Barcelona a great advantage. We know their philosophy will be to win the game and we have to try our best, have great concentration and keep our heads on the pitch the whole time.
“There may be times that we suffer, but we have to stay compact and when we have the ball we must in heads and hearts that we can score.”
Barcelona Boss Ernesto Valverde:
“In the first leg we saw Chelsea’s virtues. The initial result is good for us but we have to play our game and be ourselves.
“Chelsea can score at any time. They can take different approaches, they showed that in London. But when they push back and defend strong they are hard to break through.
“Maybe the secret is to keep pressing, but they are also very strong on the counterattack … and a threat from set pieces. We have to be careful about that.”
Barcelona Possible Lineups: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Paulinho, Rakitić, Busquets, Gomes; Messi, Suárez.
Chelsea Possible Lineups: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Fàbregas, Kanté, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard