Barcelona were leading 2 -1 and a third Catalan goal from the penalty spot would surely have killed off 10-man Chelsea; but at 49 minutes, Lionel Messi missed the spot kick via the crossbar.
The Blues thereafter staged a remarkable comeback en-route to winning their only UEFA Champions League title in 2012.
On Tuesday, the world’s greatest player – Messi has another chance to score against the London side in his ninth appearance – having lost twice, won once and achieved five draws in the former eight meetings.
His manager, Ernesto Valverde believes Messi can be the difference.
“This tie is important for Leo [Messi], for me, for everyone. For Barcelona. It’ll be tough, but it’s important because we want to qualify. Leo perhaps hasn’t had much luck against Chelsea before, but tomorrow is a different game.”
After Chelsea’s January wobble extended into February, Antonio Conte’s men have sort of bounced back with two victories and two clean sheets in the last two matches – scoring seven goals in the process, which would be good for the squad’s confidence.
In five meetings against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge, the Blues have lost just once –back in 2006. Willian’s return to form will please under-pressure Antonio Conte, combined with that of Eden Hazard and the recruitment of Olivier Giroud.
Barcelona have not lost this season and are poised for another treble having already reached the Copa del Rey final; and are seven points ahead in La Liga.
Facing a clearly under-prepared Chelsea team – the Catalans will fancy their chances. Though there has been a slight wobble in the league – two consecutive draws against Espanyol, against whom they had to equalise in the last 10 minutes and then the 0-0 home draw against Getafe, the 2-0 away win over Eibar last weekend should have settled the nerves.
Chelsea beat the Catalans at this stage in the 2004/05 season 5-4 on aggregate and Barcelona retaliated 12 months later with a 3-2 on aggregate win as they went on to claim the Champions League trophy.
Champions League Stats
|Pass Completion [%]||85||89|
|Shot Accuracy [%]||51||55|
Words before the war
Conte believes Chelsea must be 10/10 on Tuesday to get a good result against the Catalans.
“For sure we are talking about one of the best teams in the world. We have to try to, I repeat, have the perfect game, the perfect game to try to make the best decisions.”
Fabregas, who grew up in the Barcelona Academy gave a hint on how the Blues would try to outwit their Tuesday opponents.
“They try to put the first pressure very, very high – [they] always work towards the ball. If we can [get] past this first phase of their pressure, then we have the content to do that, and not put ourselves under too much pressure, then I think we can hurt them because they will leave a lot of spaces at the back. Hopefully, we can give a good image of what we can do and do a good performance.”
Eden Hazard also wants to capitalise on history.
“Barcelona are one of the best clubs in the world. In the past, they were in trouble against Chelsea and I hope tomorrow will be the same because we want to win.”
But Ivan Rakitic says history will be forgotten on Tuesday. “It will be different [to 2012 and past encounters].
“I spoke to Andrés [Iniesta] about his goal, the special moments. We spoke a lot about the stadium. Tomorrow will be a different game. We have to forget what happened before and play at our best tomorrow. These guys have played a lot of games here and have a special feeling for this game tomorrow.”
The match kicks off at 8:45 p.m. (Nigeria Time) at Stamford Bridge.
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