Chelsea Gear Up for Nou Camp Showdown Against Barcelona
Let’s be honest, despite the two trips to Manchester in recent weeks, most Chelsea fans will have had their eye on this game since the first leg finished three weeks ago. The Blues were superb at Stamford Bridge against Barcelona but couldn’t get over the line as Lionel Messi cancelled out Willian’s opener, meaning that Chelsea have to score at the Nou Camp to have any chance of going through.
Chelsea will be without one of their two players who featured last time they played at the Nou Camp as David Luiz is still out with his knee injury.
The other player, Gary Cahill, could start but it’s more likely that Antonio Rudiger will return to the team having missed Saturday’s win against Crystal Palace.
Ross Barkley is also an injury doubt but Tiemoue Bakayoko is fit to play.
Andres Iniesta will undergo a late fitness test for the hosts so Andre Gomes could start in his place.
Nelson Semedo and Denis Suarez have been ruled out by manager Ernesto Valverde.
Probable Barcelona XI (4-4-2): Ter Stegan; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Paulinho, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez,
Probable Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.
Obviously, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez pose an enormous attacking threat but, with an aggregate lead to defend, Sergio Busquets will be tasked with stifling the creativity of the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard by sitting in between the lines.
Taking all things into account, it’s going to take a moment of magic (or more than one) from a Chelsea player in order for the Blues to progress. Whether that come from Willian, like in the first leg, or Thibaut Courtois – Chelsea are going to have to rely on something special.
The Blues are unbeaten in their last four visits to the Nou Camp but have never won there in their history. They’ve only failed to score once in the Champions League away to Barcelona.
Cesc Fabregas and Pedro have 472 appearances between them in the red and blue of Barcelona.
Lionel Messi’s goal in the first leg was his first against Chelsea – he’d failed to score in 8 games against them before that.
In the last two second-leg ties between these two teams, there have been goals in stoppage time; Andres Iniesta’s cruel winner in 2009 and Fernando Torres’s solo run in 2012.
Thibaut Courtois has never kept a clean sheet at the Nou Camp – he conceded 11 goals in 4 games while playing for Atletico Madrid between 2011 and 2014.
What the managers have said:
Ernesto Valverde – ‘We can’t be on top of them for the whole match. They have had the most counter attacks in the Premier League.’
Antonio Conte – ‘If you want to have any hope to win the game you have to play a perfect game.’
Six years ago, Chelsea went to the Nou Camp and defied expectations with 10 men. The Chelsea team of 2018 will look to follow in the Class of 2012’s footsteps but in the words of Willian; ‘For me, every game has its history. This game is in the past. Tomorrow will be another history. A new story. A new game.’