Barcelona entertain Chelsea in the second-leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie on Wednesday night.
The Catalan giants go into the game on the back of an impressive run, which saw them come up triumphs against Atletico Madrid by a 1-0 scoreline. As a result, they hold an eight-point lead over Diego Simeone’s side at the top of the table, and remain favourites to reclaim the La Liga title. The Blaugrana are unbeaten in their league campaign to date.
On the contrary, things have not been rosy for the Blues, who are in a tussle to finish in the Champions League positions. The west London outfit ended a two-match losing streak in the Premier League with a nervous 2-1 triumph over Crystal Palace, but they still remain four points adrift of fourth-placed Liverpool.
What happened in the first-leg?
Chelsea entered the first-leg as potential outsiders owing to their average league form which included defeats to Watford and Bournemouth. However, Willian’s standout showing on the night allowed them secure a well-deserved 1-0 lead in the 62nd minute, after the Brazilian hit the woodwork with two previous attempts.
But, this was not the final outcome of the fixture with Lionel Messi capitalising on a defensive mistake to score 15 minutes from time. The goal was the Argentine’s first against the Capital outfit, and with that, Barcelona edged the encounter by bagging an invaluable away goal in a 1-1 draw.
Players to watch for:
Lionel Messi – Barcelona: The Argentine is the focus of attention in every game, but more so, in front of the Catalan faithful. The 30-year-old has scored in each outing since facing Chelsea, and this includes a spectacular free-kick in the 1-0 triumph over Atletico Madrid. Chelsea managed to force Messi into a deeper position during the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge, and Blues midfielder N’Golo Kante has his task cut out to restrict the attacker’s mesmerising movement.
Willian – Chelsea: Like Messi, Willian has stood out in the Chelsea ranks during a period where they have experienced indifferent results. The Brazil international has scored in four of the last five matches, barring the Manchester City game, where the entire team decided not to turn up. Willian is a potent threat when offered space anywhere near goal, and Barcelona will be well aware of his shooting prowess after he was denied a deserved hat-trick during the first-leg, due to the woodwork.
Chelsea are likely to play on the counter versus Barcelona, but we are not anticipating them to spring in a surprise. Hence we are backing for a comfortable victory for the La Liga leaders.
Barcelona 2-0 Chelsea