Chelsea Target is to Frustrate Barcelona Before Making Telling Strike
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Chelsea Target is to Frustrate Barcelona Before Making Telling Strike

Chelsea head to Barcelona as massive underdogs, which is no surprise given how their respective seasons are panning out, but the Blues have been here before.

Roll back to 2012 when the Blues snatched a dramatic 2-2 draw, courtesy of Fernando Torres’ last-minute goal, to sink a heavily favoured Barca side 3-2 on aggregate and advance to the final.

On that occasion, though, Chelsea travelled to Spain protecting a 1-0 lead from the first leg. This year, the first leg of the Champions League last 16 clash finished 1-1 – leaving Barca at a huge advantage.

The market makers feel the task facing Chelsea is a huge one, as they are priced at 4.44 by 188BET to progress – with Barca available to back at 1.21 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Taking on a side containing the best player in the world–Lionel Messi in their own backyard–is why Chelsea are such heavy underdogs. Coupled with their inconsistencies this season, it would take a brave man to boldly predict the Blues for victory.

Chelsea should not be overawed in facing Barca, as the first leg saw the Catalans dominate possession only for Antonio Conte’s Blues to craft the better chances. Prior to scoring the opener on 62 minutes, Willian had twice struck a post and Eden Hazard fired over the bar.

Barca may have been frustrated for long periods, but the genius of Messi netted 15 minutes from time to earn a draw and bag a precious away goal.

There are no secrets as to how Ernesto Valverde’s Barca will approach the contest, they’ll look to control possession and find ways of picking the Chelsea lock.

In contrast, second-guessing Conte’s Chelsea gameplan is far less clear. Hazard has been asked to operate as a false nine in big games this season, despite expressing his unhappiness with that role. Will Conte go with that again, or will he play with a genuine central striker such as Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata and allow Hazard his preferred free role?

Given how well Chelsea countered the threat of their opponents in the first leg at Stamford Bridge, it would come as no surprise were Conte to adopt a similar strategy. It may well nullify his own biggest threat in Hazard, but that may be a price he’s willing to pay to frustrate Barca.

At some point Conte knows his side have to find a goal, but the longer he can keep his side in the contest the better before potentially opening things up with a Giroud or a Morata.

We may not get the drama of 2012, but it should make for compelling viewing.

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