13 Mar Barcelona v Chelsea talking points
Chelsea go to Barcelona for Wednesday night’s Champions League last-16 second leg with the tie finely poised at 1-1 following last month’s contest at Stamford Bridge.
Antonio Conte’s side need to score to have any hope of progressing.
Here Press Association Sport looks at some of the talking points ahead of the Nou Camp clash.
Blues forwards to strike?
Chelsea must score but the Blues’ strike-force has stuttered of late. Alvaro Morata has not scored since Boxing Day. Olivier Giroud has one goal since his arrival from Arsenal and should have had a hat-trick against Crystal Palace last Saturday. And Eden Hazard, who has seven goals in 2018, is a reluctant ‘false nine’, voicing his frustrations after the lacklustre loss at Manchester City. Conte has been deliberating over his forward options and said he would consult his players on the best way to play in the game.
Managing magical Messi
Finally, after years of trying, Lionel Messi scored his first goal against Chelsea in his ninth game against the Blues. Chelsea know how to play at Barcelona. They are unbeaten in their last four visits to the Nou Camp and last month’s 1-1 draw made it eight games without defeat against the Catalans. The Blues’ defence has appeared shaky of late, though, and must be at its best against a Barca side seeking to reach the quarter-finals for a record-extending 11th year in a row. Chelsea have reached the same stage once in the last five years, in 2013-14.
Aping Atletico display
Chelsea’s best performance of the season came in Spain, when the Blues beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in September. On that occasion Morata and Hazard combined spectacularly and Michy Batshuayi, now on loan at Borussia Dortmund, scored a stoppage-time winner. N’Golo Kante’s all-action performance was notable too. If the Blues can reproduce a similar level it would give them a chance. But Barca are unbeaten in LaLiga this season and have scored eight goals, conceding one, in the Champions League in beating Juventus, Olympiacos and Sporting Lisbon at home.
Both Cesc Fabregas and Pedro are now at Chelsea, having played for Barcelona, including against the Blues. Luis Suarez had two goals in seven appearances for Liverpool against Chelsea, whose then defender Branislav Ivanovic he bit in April 2013. Barca are without ineligible former Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho, but Andres Iniesta has returned to training following a hamstring injury and could feature. Iniesta has ended Chelsea’s Champions League hopes before and Blues fans will fear he can again.
If Chelsea can advance at Barcelona’s expense it would likely delay the speculation over where Conte will be working next season. The Italian’s words and actions this season suggest it will not be at Chelsea. And he has been linked with jobs with Italy, Paris St Germain and Real Madrid, if Zinedine Zidane departs. Conte will hope to show his coaching ability no matter what the future holds for him.