Chelsea v Barcelona: 5 key player battles that can decide the outcome
Ever since the draw for the Champions League knockout fixtures were made public, this particular tie has managed to stand-out from the rest in terms of the memorable meetings between the two sides over the years and also the sheer level of intensity with which the two teams have contested in the same.
The last meeting between Chelsea and Barcelona came back in 2012 during the Blues' memorable Champions League winning campaign under the then manager Roberto Di Matteo. However, both teams will be heading into the game on the back of very contrasting fortunes in their respective domestic league championships this term.
Ernesto Valverde's Blaugrana are unbeaten runaway leaders in Spain while Antonio Conte's defending champions have had to play catch-up with the Manchester clubs for the majority of the season while competing with an outside chance in the FA Cup as well.
In this segment, we will be profiling the 5 key personal battles on the pitch that can possibly decide the outcome of the game on its own. Without further delay, let's take a closer look at how things are shaping up ahead of this steaming battle:
#5 Alvaro Morata vs Gerard Pique
Alvaro Morata is expected to come up against his Spanish national teammate Gerard Pique when the two sides lock horns at Stamford Bridge, yet again in this competition. Despite being regular starters for their country, the duo also has previous history of going against each other at club level, courtesy of Morata's rise to prominence at Real Madrid in the past.
Pique was also assigned with the task of keeping his Spanish compatriot at bay during the 2015 UEFA Champions League final held in Berlin, where Morata scored an important equalizer only to end up on the losing side by the end of designated time.
Chelsea struck a club-record fee with Real Madrid for Morata's services in the summer and despite quickly finding his feet in England, the Spaniard has struggled to replicate the same form in the second half of the season.
Pique, on the other hand, continues to grow in stature at the heart of a Catalan defense that has conceded just a solitary goal in the competition all season. The duo will probably find themselves in the thick of an intense aerial battle considering both players' ability in the air.