Chelsea take on Barcelona at the Camp Nou on Wednesday knowing they must score to stand a chance of progressing to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
UEFA Champions League
14 March 2018
Round of 16, second leg
Kick-off: 21H45 (GMT+2)
Venue: Camp Nou
Referee: D. Skomina
Assistants: J. Praprotnik, R. Vukan
Fourth official: T. Klancnik
TEAM MATCHES WIN DRAW LOSS
Barcelona 13 3 6 4
Chelsea 13 4 6 3
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona 21/02/2018 (Champions League)
Chelsea goalscorer: Willian (62′)
Barcelona goalscorer: L. Messi (75′)
Players to watch:
Lionel Messi has been kept fresh for the visit of the Blues after he was rested for the 2-0 win over Malaga on Saturday. The Argentine goal machine has scored in each of his last four matches and leads the race for the Pichichi with 24 goals.
Willian is in red-hot form for the Premier League champions having found the back of the net fives times in his last five appearances, only failing to score against Manchester City in a 1-0 defeat. The Brazilian has created six goals in the league for his team-mates, but hasn’t registered an assist in eight games.
Team form and manager quotes:
Barca have played one game more than the Blues since they drew 1-1 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge on February 18.
But the Catalan giants are showing no signs of fatigue as they march unchallenged towards another La Liga title. They are eight points clear at the top of the standings and remain unbeaten in the league after 28 games.
Ernesto Valverde’s side have won three of their four matches following the stalemate in London, only dropping points in a 1-1 draw with Las Palmas.
Willian caused the Blaugrana plenty of problems last time out and hit both posts before firing the Blues in front, and Valverde acknowledges his players will have to keep a lid on the Brazilian in the second leg.
“Willian is scoring freely. He’s a player we have to watch because he has got his shooting boots on at the moment. He is probably in his best form of the season,” the Spaniard said in his pre-match press conference.
The champions of England aren’t in the best of form coming into the European encounter. They have only recorded one win in their last three outings, losing the other two against Manchester United (2-1) and Manchester City (1-0).
Antonio Conte’s troops were unfortunate not to come out on top in the first leg, when Lionel Messi equalised 15 minutes from time, which was his first goal in nine meetings with the west Londoners.
Conte is aware of the tough task awaiting them in Catalonia, but will be hoping to keep Messi and company at bay this time around, while looking to make their own chances count.
“There may be times that we suffer, but we have to stay compact and when you have the ball you must have the belief in your head and heart that you can score,” the Italian told the press on Tuesday.
“We have to stay in the game, but it won’t be easy. If we want to go through to the next round we must invest in the game for every moment of it.”
Andres Iniesta has shaken off a knock to take part in Tuesday’s training session to put himself in the frame for the visit of Chelsea.
However, the hosts continue to be without injured duo Denis Suarez and Nelson Semedo.
Conte, meanwhile, has a near fully-fit squad at his disposal, with just David Luiz and Ross Barkley unavailable through injury.