Barcelona vs Chelsea Preview – 15/2 the bets as Barca host Blues
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Chelsea would have loved to go Nou Camp with the help of Willian's 62nd minute goal. However such an advantage was negated by Messi's 75th equalizer that puts the pressure squarely back on the visiting Blues. They have to make something out of the 2nd leg of the Round of 16 clash on Wednesday night.
There were fears in the Barca camp that Andres Iniesta, who provided the imagination and assist in ending Messi's goal-drought against Chelsea, may find himself ruled out for Wednesday night's critical clash. This thanks to a hamstring injury sustained during a recent game with La Liga club Malaga. But the ace mid-fielder has hinted that he may be fit enough to make an appearance at Nou Camp on the 14th.
Denis Suarez, the 24-year old Spanish central looks almost certain to miss the Chelsea clash having sustained a muscle strain on his left leg during the Catalan Super Cup against Espanyaol last week. Coach Valvarde will probably bring in Andre Gomes to replace the injured Suarez with other protagonists in the mid-field line-up being Paulinho, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic all of whom had featured in the 1st leg at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea who showed great defensive work in the first leg will in all likelihood have the usual suspects Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Anthony Rudiger and Victor Moses at the back.
Cesc Fabregas and N'golo Kante will be the mainstays in the middle while the attack will be spearheaded by Willian, Pedro and Eden Hazard.
Alvaro Morata the multi-million dollar acquisition from Real Madrid, who showed such promise as the side's main striker seems in the initial part of the season, seems to have fizzled out completely of late and to make matters worse, picked up unnecessary yellow cards in some recent games.
He faces intense competition for the striker's spot from Chelsea-import Olivier Giroud.
Conte will, of course, try to adopt the same strategy he did at Stamford Bridge where he was effectively able to stifle the Barca attack upto quite an extent. So much so that the visiting Catalans who hogged more than three-fourths of the possession managed just two shots on the Chelsea goal.
On the other hand, the Barca defense seemed to be on tenterhooks whenever the likes of Willian, Pedro and Hazard counter-attacked. Conte will be hoping that a Barca attack pushing upwards over-eagerly for results will leave holes at the back for the Blues to exploit.
Unknownst to many, Barcelona has an awful history with Chelsea despite all their might. Chelsea's last trip to Nou Camp had ended disastrously for the hosts with them being booted out of the Champions League.
Surprisingly, Chelsea are yet to lose a game to the Catalan giants from their previous eight encounters. This is the first time that Barca are running into the English club so early in the knock-out stage.
Whether Barcelona will be able to enter the quarter-final stage for the 11th straight time will be decided on Wednesday night. It is this consistent progression into the Round of 8 over the years that have prompted the bookmakers to wager on Barcelona qualification. But skeptics would be ruling out a Chelsea surprise at their own peril.
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