Barcelona vs Chelsea: Hosts hold the advantage while Blues’ hope to improve good recordMarch 14, 2018
Chelsea travel to Barcelona for their second leg Champions League last 16 tie with the odds in favour of the home side although they will be looking to improve upon their good record against the La Liga leaders.
The Premier League champions have not lost in their last eight Champions League meetings against Barcelona including the Semi-Final win in 2012 which led them to lifting the trophy.
Lionel Messi’s late strike, which was his first against Chelsea, salvaged an away goal for Ernesto Valverde’s side in the reverse fixture after Willian had put the Blues ahead – giving the hosts a slight advantage.
The Argentine missed the 2-0 win over Malaga last weekend due to the birth of his child but is set to return to the starting line-up.
Questions remain over the availability of Nelson Semedo as he missed the first leg through suspension but may miss out again due to injury.
Antonio Conte came out and issued his admiration for Barcelona playmaker Andres Iniesta this week and the Spanish midfielder is a doubt following his hamstring problem, while former Liverpool star Phillipe Coutinho is not eligible.
Paulinho and Ousmane Dembele are competing for a spot on the right flank with the former expected to be given the starting place.
However Conte has injury concerns of his own trio Ross Barkley, Tiemoué Bakayoko and David Luiz are all huge doubts leaving his midfield rather sparse.
It is likely Eden Hazard will be tasked with playing through the middle once despite Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud available for selection.
Antonio Rudiger is expected to get the nod over centre-back Gary Cahill once more following some good performances.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Alba, Umtiti, Pique, Roberto, Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic, Paulinho, Suarez, Messi
Chelsea: Courtois, Rudiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta, Alonso, Fabregas, Kante, Moses, Willian, Pedro, Hazard