The Champions League returns to Stamford Bridge this midweek with a classic fixture: Chelsea against Barcelona.
The Blues messed up their group after a good start and now find themselves up against one of the tournament favourites. Even worse, Antonio Conte has seen his side’s form get worse and worse since the draw was made for the knockout rounds.
It’s no surprise then to see Barcelona heavy favourites, with odds at evens on sites like Bet365, as listed on the sports betting list at mytopsportsbooks.com.
However, with the second leg in the Nou Camp, Chelsea could also set up for a draw at home and try and nick the tie on away goals. A first leg draw is listed at 12/5, and if they can stop Barcelona scoring any away goals, they will have seriously changed the complexion of this tie.
Certainly the win over Hull in the cup on Friday night will have boosted confidence in the Chelsea camp, and it has in fact given Antonio Conte some serious decisions over what lineup to pick. Willian scored twice and was exceptional in the 4-0 win, but Pedro also scored and looked lively. Which of them will play opposite Eden Hazard will remain a mystery likely until the teams come out on Tuesday.
There’s a similar dilemma up front, with Olivier Giroud having impressed so much in his two starts, but Alvaro Morata should keep his place as the spearhead of the team.
Whatever happens in Tuesday’s game, if it’s anything like the other matches between these two clubs over the last ten years, we are in for a classic.
Kick-off at 19.45 UK Time at Stamford Bridge. TV broadcast live on BT Sports.
Chelsea will be without Tiemoue Bakayoko and David Luiz, while Marcos Alonso and Ross Barkley should be available after periods out.
Barcelona have no injury worries, but are without the cup-tied Philippe Coutinho and the suspended Nelson Semedo.
One to watch
Lionel Messi – Who else? The best player in the world, and perhaps the best of all time, Messi has very few gaps in his CV, but a goal against Chelsea is one of them. The Blues will be seriously stretched to stop the Argentine breaking his duck against them over two legs, but if they can do that they will have gone a long way to stopping Barcelona.
Recent league form
Chelsea : L W L L W W
Barcelona: W W D W D W
Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (April 2012)
Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona (April 2012)
Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (May 2009)
Barcelona 0-0 Chelsea (April 2009)
Chelsea may struggle over the two legs, but if they dig in and get their defensive structure right they have every chance of getting a draw at home. Then they can go to the Nou Camp and hope for a another miracle like Torres in 2012 to get them through.