19th of February 2018 Author: Johnny Karp
Defending Premier League champions Chelsea face the supreme test for their European ambitions as they host the mighty Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League first knockout round tie. The two teams last met in the semi-finals of this competition in 2012 and Chelsea pulled through to the final after a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and a 2-2 draw at Camp Nou. Overall, Chelsea have won four of the twelve direct meetings, while Barcelona tasted victory on just three occasions.
Chelsea are having a rather disappointing Premier League season and their Champions League campaign has not been without worries so far. They finished second in Group C behind AS Roma and only managed to win three of their six group matches. Last week they had an easy 4-0 victory in the FA Cup against Hull City and manager Antonio Conte even had the chance to rest most of the first-team regulars. Tiemoue Bakayoko, David Luiz and Ross Barkley are the only injury concerns for the home side, but all three could be fit for the match.
Barcelona had an almost perfect Champions League campaign so far, they got through the group stage undefeated, finished at the top of Group D ahead of Juventus, and only conceded one goal in six matches. Their domestic campaign is going well too, last week they returned to winning ways with a 2-0 victory at Eibar to remain seven points clear at the top of the table in LaLiga. Nelson Semedo is suspended for this match, while Philippe Coutinho can't be registered to play for Barcelona in the Champions League because he has already played for Liverpool in this competition this season.
Chelsea: Courtois - Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill - Moses, Drinkwater, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso - Hazard - Morata
Barcelona: Ter Stegen - Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba - Dembele, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta - Suarez, Messi
My prediction: Barcelona to win 2-1.
Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:
Chelsea win - 3.75
Draw - 3.50
Barcelona win - 2.10
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I don't believe anyone would give Chelsea an advantage in their predictions in this very moment.
Still we shouldn't have to write them off just yet I think because we know how good tactically as a manager Conte is and I think his teams generally playing the only way you could beat Barcelona right now -counter-attacking.
Still no doubt the Catalans are huge favourites even for tonight's game I think.
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