The rivalry continues
Over the last few years, the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC has only gotten bigger in European competitions. Their games have been full of drama, controversy and chaos.
As history speaks for itself, in head-to-head, the London club boasts of having the upper hand versus the Spanish giant in matches played at European competitions. Both clubs have now met 13 times in the Champions League with four wins going in favour of Chelsea, three wins for Barcelona, and six being drawn.
Added ammunition for both teams makes this tie even more intriguing
During the summer, with the departure of Neymar to French side Paris Saint-Germain, came an end of arguably the most feared attacking trio in football history – MSN. But this did not seem to dampen the mood in the Nou Camp as Barcelona managed to sign the French prodigy Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund as Neymar’s replacement.
Ernesto Valverde’s appointment as coach of the Blaugrana has helped in improving the team’s performance this season. In the domestic circuit, Barcelona are leading the La Liga and have been on a roll, having lost a game all season.
Lionel Messi has clearly taken on the responsibility of driving this Barca team to the top of the league this year by leading the statistics with 22 goals and 13 assists so far in La Liga while Luis Suarez too has 20 goals to his name.
Chelsea also have had their share of the headlines. They bought Spanish international Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid in the summer. With long-serving captain John Terry leaving the club, Chelsea got in Tiemoue Bakayoko and Davide Zappacosta to strengthen their team.
Antonio Conte’s season as Chelsea’s manager last year could not have gotten better as he guided the Blues to being crowned champions in his first season in charge. He was also adjudged as the Premier League Manager of the Season.
With the kind of performance Chelsea produced last year to go on and win the Premier League, this season's performance has not been up to expectations as they stand fourth in the table. Eden Hazard and Willian are the standout players to watch out for as they seem to be catching form of late.
Takeaways from the first leg at Stamford Bridge
Football can be a cruel game and we witnessed it last week once again at Stamford Bridge. Among all the chaos, it was that man once again. Yes, you guessed right – Lionel Messi!
Riding on the form FC Barcelona has been all season, and with their famously adopted tiki-taka, to no one’s surprise, they held 70 percent of the ball possession through the first half. This would be a situation that all Barca fans can expect at the Camp Nou in the second leg.
With Chelsea being on defensive duty, it was in the last ten minutes of the first half where they grabbed a couple of chances leaving the Catalan defence all over the place. Chelsea being as stubborn as they are in defence, are equally ruthless with their attacks with the ball in their possession. This is the Chelsea we all know of and which we can expect to see in the away tie on 14 March.
The Blues took the lead in the second half, as Willian managed to find the back of the net with a clever shot past Marc-Andre ter Stegen. With the kind of attack Barcelona possess, they still could not get through the defence of Chelsea.
Against the run of play, a defensive error by Chelsea proved costly as Iniesta picked up a loose ball and passed it on to Lionel Messi. The Argentine opened his goal tally against Chelsea and got a vital away goal in this tie for the Catalonians. Chelsea squandered their chance of going into the second leg with a goal advantage. Both teams shared the spoils as the match ended 1-1.
Everything to play for at Camp Nou? Of course. Barcelona will want to use their home advantage and kill off the tie as soon as possible. Chelsea will also have their attacking game on high as they visit Camp Nou and will obviously want to repeat what they did in 2012.
Another classic encounter in the making? Camp Nou awaits and so do we.