All heads are turned to Catalonia Capital in Barcelona, as Spanish giants Barcelona are welcoming English Champs Chelsea for second leg of Uefa Champions League showpiece tonight.
The Catalans ended up with 1-1 draw against the Blues in Stamford Bridge as Lionel Messi struck in the advanced minutes of the game canceling Willian’s effort. Antonio Conte’s men sat deep as they hosted Messi and co, but were unlucky on various occasions.
Brazilian midfielder Willian struck the bar twice before getting his goal. Visitors only managed to level the score when Messi pounced on Andres Iniesta pass after Chelsea defender Andres Cristensen made a regrettable stray pass.
Both teams are moving into this game after managing wins over the weekend. Barcelona beat Malaga 2-0 in La Liga match where they are pursuing the La Liga crown. Chelsea on the other hand reacted after 2-1 Manchester United defeat by beating Crystal Palace 2-1 over the weekend.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has maintained that his players must be perfect to beat Barcelona, and that they must be prepared to suffer off the ball. Barcelona’s Ernesto Valverde on the other hand believes that they cannot underrate Chelsea, thus, they need tactical master plan to qualify for quarterfinal.
Team news and injuries: Barcelona are going into the game in proper shape. Captain Andre Iniesta has recovered from a harmstring and he could feature in this game off the bench. Philippe Coutinho is cup-tied after having played for Liverpool in group stage matches. Full back Nelson Semedo is also out injured and will not feature in this match. Another doubt is Denis Suarez who may find this game sooner to compete in. Mousa Dembele has recovered from the injuries and could make the cut to replace Iniesta for few minutes.
Chelsea on the other hand have received a boost in the return of German defender Antonio Rudiger who was sidelined with an injury. However, David Luiz and Ross Barkley are still out injured and will not be able to play in this game.
Tactics: Chelsea used Eden Hazard as a false 9 in the first leg tie and through such gambit, Antonio Conte managed to get an extra man in the midfield to achieve a compact team that could defend in tight spaces. However, the Italian was criticized for failing to bring either Olivier Giroud or Morata to play a target man and pull Barcelona defence wide so as to create chances. Going into this game, Chelsea’s squad can only be left for a guess. Chelsea have to defend well and get goals tonight. That means that they have to be compact and sharp in attacks, especially counters. This means that Hazard could play once more as a false 9 alongside Pedro and Willian, as Kante pairs Cesc Fabgregas or Drinkwater in midfield in 3-4-3. Plan B would be bringing either Bakayoko or Drinkwater to pair Fabregas and Kante, and having Hazard and Willian upfront in 3-5-2. This will beef midfield but provide counter-attack ammunition.
Barcelona on the other hand are certainly going to use Suarez and Messi upfront. But Ernesto Valverde may settle on using Dembele to pull wide Chelsea wing-backs so that they can create spaces at the centre for Messi to exploit.
Another option is to deploy Paulinho alongside Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic in 4-3-3 to stop the duo of Hazard and Willian, as Dembele aides in attack.
A: 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
B:4-3-3- Marc Andre Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti, Jordi Alba; Paulinho, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Moussa Dembele; Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi
A: 3-4-3- Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’golo Kante, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Olivier Giroud, Eden Hazard
B: 3-4-3- Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’golo Kante, Marcos Alonso; Willian, Pedro, Eden Hazard
C: 3-5-2- Thibaut Courtois; Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Victor Moses, Cesc Fabregas, N’golo Kante, Drinkwater (Bakayoko) Marcos Alonso; Willian, Eden Hazard
Prediction: Barcelona versus Chelsea at Camp Nou is a difficult match to predict, notwithstanding the fact that Barcelona remain favourites in the game. Chelsea’s chances of winning this game is slimmer than their chances of getting a draw. History between these two sides also back this. Messi having rested gives Barca a major boost. This can be either a win or draw for the hosts. Few goals could be scored in this match as well.