Antoni Conte didn’t feel remorse full nor perturbed after losing to Manchester City at the Premier League. Instead, dude threw a shade at Arsene Wenger saying he (Conte) wasn’t foolish enough to lose 3 goals to nil or 4 – 0. If we remember Arsenal has lost 3 – nil, twice consecutively to Manchester City. First was at the Carabao cup and then Premier League match. This was Conte’s reply in the after match interview when he was asked how he felt about his team losing 1 – 0 to league leaders at the Etihad stadium.
It appears he took the time to rest his players ahead of the make or break clash against Catalan giants. In the previous leg on 20th February, Chelsea had pulled off a spectacular show against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. They’ll have gone away with 3 points if not for Messi’s flash of brilliance. In fact, Willian hit the post twice before that goal went in, so this means the goals could have been more.
On the 14th of March will be the return leg for the first round knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League. And Chelsea will be locking horns in an Epic showdown against Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
Stats from Previous Matches
Chelsea has won just two of their last 6 matches in all competitions put together, losing 3 and drawing one. While Barcelona has won three and drew three, this season though Barcelona has lost just one match.
Previous performance against each other however is on the side of Chelsea. In their last 6 meetings, Chelsea has won two and drew four matches.
The last match was at Stamford Bridge and it ended at 1 – 1 draw, however since Barcelona were away they have the away goal advantage. Therefore, a goalless draw will see Chelsea exiting the competition. We are very sure Conte will not like this; he’s never won the Champions League before, this is a good time as any. Conte has been embattled this season, fans have requested his ousting, and only one person in the EPL is under more pressure than him…the man Wenger. Coming to think of it these two guys have a shot at redemption, a trophy might just save them.
Barcelona also will be trying to improve their record at continental competitions. Ernesto Valverde’s men have been splendid this season. In their domestic league, the La Liga trophy is all but won. I reckon that their fans by now have gotten used to winning the La Liga trophy, they want something bigger. Something which some would argue is the forte or their arch-rivals Real Madrid.
If Barcelona’s form at their domestic league is anything to go by, then this match-up should be a clean sweep for them. However, that is not always the case. In this situation, their domestic performance is at great variance with their performance in UEFA. They escaped by a hair’s breadth during the group stages. They played a goalless draw against Olympiacos, played 1- nil against Sporting Lisbon and drew again against Juve, this is not the Barca we know in Spain. Now they’ve played a draw against Chelsea. Anyway, when it matters most we know Barca has enough quality to make things turn out right. Speaking of quality, it very well may go down a notch or two, thereby affecting their UEFA Trophy campaign. Andres Iniesta suffered a hamstring injury against Athletic Madrid. For now, no one is sure whether he’ll be ready to play against Chelsea. If he doesn’t play it will be a big blow the Catalan giants, he was very useful in setting up Messi for the goal at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago. And the fact that Coutinho will not be playing also just makes things worse for Valverde.
Most Likely Tactics
Antonio Conte rested his men against Man city, so they’ll be fully ready against Barcelona. We’d expect that’d he’d go all out to win this game, yet again he’s going to be very tactical about it. Barcelona has one of the most feared attacking force in Europe at the moment, with the likes of merciless Messi and goal-hungry Suarez, they’d be a handful to contain. We’d expect the Chelsea boss to choke the midfield as he did at London and then look for a break out balls for Willian and Hazard. This style or variations of it has been Chelsea’s way of playing Barcelona, right from Jose Mourinho time, and he got results against them many of the times. The problem here though is that Conte is not Mourinho. For Mourinho’s Chelsea, a lock-down is a lock-down. The password combination of Messi, Suarez and even Iniesta will not be able to break the lock. The same though can’t be said about Conte. It only took Manchester City about 36 seconds to crack Chelsea in the second half during their last Encounter at the Etihad.
The thing here though is that the Nou Camp pitch has been touted to be bigger than Stamford Bridge’s, so we’ll be waiting to find out how the choking will work.
The match at London was mostly a Barcelona affair, as per possession, we’d be expecting the same thing here. Barcelona will look for an early goal, therefore, they’ll go all out as they usually do. This doesn’t mean they’ll be successful at it though.
So who will win this match it is actually anybody’s guess here. If the results of their last meetings are anything to go by, then we won’t be expecting too many goals. However, given their present forms in their local leagues, Barcelona ha better chance of winning. So if you are a betting person, bet in favour of Barcelona.
Barcelona got a huge scare during the first leg match; can Chelsea even do better this time? for Conte’s sake, we hope so.