Champions League Preview – Chelsea vs. Barcelona

Chelsea appeared to be in the driver’s seat in the first leg of their Champions League clash against mighty Barcelona. A Willian strike put the Blues on top earlier in the match after he had already been denied twice by the post. Chelsea held the lead throughout most of the second half before Lionel Messi equalised for Barca.

Now, the Blues face the tall task of going into the Camp Nou and trying to get a result. Surrendering just one away goal against Barcelona wasn’t the worst result, but Barca doesn’t suffer many setbacks in their home stadium. They’re unbeaten all season long in La Liga, and they’ve been held to a draw in just two of their 13 home matches to this point.

Chelsea will have to shake their rocky recent form if they have any hopes of pulling off the upset. Antonio Conte’s men have lost four of their last five games in the Premier League, with the lone positive result a 3-0 victory over relegation favorites West Brom. That includes a 3-0 drubbing against Bournemouth and a 4-1 shellacking at the hands of Watford.

Sportsbooks certainly don’t like Chelsea’s chances of advancing to the quarterfinals. Barcelona are currently 4/9 favorites to go through, while the Blues are listed at 77/10. You don’t have to know a and how odds work to know that those numbers aren’t favourable to the English side.

Still, stranger things have happened. While they haven’t reached the heights we saw when they cruised to the Premier League title last season, Chelsea still boast a side laden with potential. We’ve seen Willian repeatedly rescue the team in the biggest moments, and it will probably take another moment of magic from the Brazilian for the Blues to have a chance to move on.

Conte will also need Eden Hazard to show up. The Belgian was vocal with his frustration regarding his lack of touches in Chelsea’s dismal loss to Manchester City over the weekend, but he’s going to have to get over his disappointment against Barcelona.

Chelsea will likely need to find an early goal in order to get a leg up. The Blues obviously need at least one goal in order to move on to the next round. Striking early would give them a much-needed confidence boost. No lead will be comfortable against a team that features the likes of Messi and Luis Suarez, but we know falling behind early would likely prove to be a death knell.

Chelsea do get the benefit of facing Barcelona without all their top talent. Philippe Coutinho appeared in Champions League with Liverpool earlier this season, which means he’s cup-tied for the remainder of Barca’s CL run this season.

Barring some sort of favorable injury news, it’s tough to see how an out-of-form Chelsea side will be able to hang with Barca when the latter is operating at such a high level.

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