Chelsea are back in Champions League action for potentially the last time this season, and maybe the last time for a while. The Blues head into this trip to Catalonia with the bookmakers making no secret of their expectations here, as the Spanish league leaders are heavily backed to win the second leg and the tie overall. With the Blues now in fifth position in the top flight, they could fail to qualify for this competition next term, which would be a disaster for the reigning Premier League champions. Can they boost their season with a shock victory at Barca?
Having recently come under fire after a poor display against Man City, it will be interesting to see how Antonio Conte approaches the second leg. Will his side play a high intensity game in this trip and risk burning out towards the end, or will there be another defensive set-up on display? With a potential final appearance among Europe’s elite coming up, hopefully the Blues can produce a memorable performance at the very least.
Team News: How Will Conte Handle the Catalans?
Conte will be hoping that N’Golo Kante is at full fitness for this huge clash, as his presence will be crucial for the Blues to get anything out of this trip. Without the Frenchman, the Blues lack organisation and dynamism, which cuts a large chunk out of their game. It’s already a huge ask for Chelsea to get anything out of this game, and their approach here will depend on the fitness of Kante.
Without him we could see Conte compensate by using a five man midfield. On top of that, the Chelsea boss has to decide if his team are going to go all out for a crucial away goal or not. However, we think the recent visit to the Etihad may be the blueprint that the champions turn to on Wednesday. Whether such tactics could be at all successful remains to be seen of course.
Barcelona shouldn’t have any major issues ahead of this game, as they don’t have any big selection worries. The hosts have been going with a 4-4-2 system this term, and that is working out pretty well for them so far. We don’t expect them to make any big changes to that approach ahead of this visit from the Blues, especially with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi playing so well right now.
Barcelona come into Wednesday’s meeting in fantastic form, having won all but two of their last 18 home matches. That’s not only put them top of La Liga, but the Catalans are making good progress in Europe and in the Spanish cup. With a potential treble on the horizon, it’s hard to argue with what Barca have been producing this season, and that’s why they’re expected to make it through here.
While Barca’s away problems in the Champions League made us think that the Catalans were going to have some issues at the Bridge, it’s a very different story in the Camp Nou. Barca have won 18 of their last 19 in this competition at home, while it’s almost five years since their last home defeat in the Champions League, and that was in a clash with that season’s victorious Bayern Munich side, who won a treble of their own. With that kind of run behind them, La Liga’s leaders will be expecting a victory this week.
Barcelona v Chelsea Head to Head
The first leg meeting between these two continued the string of draws between them. There’s been six draws in the last seven encounters, which means that we might see a closer game once again. Given how we’ve seen Chelsea approach the recent encounters with Barca and Man City, we’d have to expect them to make things tough for the Catalans, which could lead to yet another draw.
- Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona, Feb 2018
- Chelsea 2-2 Barcelona, Jul 2015
- Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea, Apr 2014
- Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona, Apr 2012
- Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona, May 2009
- Under 2.5 Goals – 11/8 with BetVictor
- Under 1.5 Barca Goals – 17/10 with Betfair
Having struck late to come away from London with a draw, Barcelona are now heavy favourites to book a place in the quarter-finals. The Catalans are priced up at 4/9 with Betfred to win this clash within 90 minutes, while the Blues are a huge 13/2 with Ladbrokes to come away with a victory this weekend. The Blues did qualify with a draw here in their last trip to Catalonia, and Coral make it 7/2 for this clash to finish all square. However, the Premier League side would need a 2-2 draw to progress on away goals, which can be backed at 16/1 with Betfair.
However, it’s hard to see this game racking up quite that many goals. The hosts may be strong at the Camp Nou in Europe, but they’ve seen a few low scoring matches of late. Eight of their last nine in all competitions have seen fewer than three goals scored, as have five of their previous six in this competition. With Chelsea likely to come here looking to make things difficult for the Barca attack, we don’t see this becoming a high scoring tie. We’re backing under 2.5 goals in this trip, which can be backed at 11/8 with BetVictor.
Chelsea do need an away goal, but a key thing for them will be keeping the score down in this visit. We’re backing the visitors to put in a strong defensive shift, especially given they restricted Europe’s strongest attack – Man City – to just one goal and very few chances in the meeting at the Etihad earlier this month. Following on from that display, we’re backing under 1.5 goals for Barca in this game, as they were well-marshalled in the first leg. That bet seems well priced at 17/10 with Betfair ahead of this clash.