A name like Barcelona coming out of the hat in the Champions League draw always gets a strange reception from fans. You want to be playing the best in the Champions League, as that’s what makes it a spectacle. However, maybe most Chelsea fans didn’t want Barcelona this early in the competition. Anyway, the draw happened that way and we will face Barcelona at Stamford Bridge on February 20th, with the return leg at the Nou Camp on 14th March.
Who are Barcelona’s Danger Men?
It is unlikely that any football fan on the planet doesn’t know the answer to this question but, yes, the main threat will come from a certain Lionel Messi. The brilliant Argentinian is once again La Liga’s top scorer and has been chipping in with a fair number of assists too. If Messi fails to fire, then Chelsea’s defence will still have to deal with Luis Suarez who seems to have rediscovered some form after a slow start to the season.
Who could Spring a Surprise?
With all the crazy transfers last summer, Ousmane Dembele’s £97 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund went under the radar somewhat. Dembele’s Barca career never really got started though, after he suffered an injury early in the campaign. He has recovered, however, and could add an extra dimension to Barcelona’s frightening attack.
What are their Weaknesses?
It seems strange to say this about a Barcelona side, but their midfield is not the strongest. They tend to play four across the middle in away games, with Paulinho, and Sergio Busquets playing in the centre. They concede much more possession and are less dominant than the tiki-taka side of a few years ago, but are generally solid without be exciting. They have not got a settled pair of centre backs either, with Thomas Vermaelen coming in for Samuel Umtiti in recent fixtures. None of the back four will relish facing the pace and ingenuity of Hazard.
What are the Bookmakers Saying?
As might be expected, Barcelona are the favourites to qualify for the next round at odds of 1/3 with Betway. Chelsea to qualify over the two-legs is priced at a tempting 23/10. Incidentally, 23/10 is also the price for Chelsea to come away with a win in the first leg at Stamford Bridge. Drawing Barcelona in the last 16 has also had a knock-on effect on Chelsea’s outright Champions League odds, which are currently 25/1. If you fancy them to beat the odds, you can bet on Chelsea with Betway’s welcome offer, which is available for UK punters now.
Do Chelsea Have Any Chance?
Definitely. Some would argue that the quality in La Liga is much poorer than ever before this season, and that Barca’s dominance is down to the malaise of other teams. Juventus and, to some degree, Paris St Germain showed last season how they can be got at. Putting a marker down at Stamford Bridge could be key; Barcelona have only won one of their last five away Champions League knockout stage games, conceding 12 goals in the process. They may be rightly installed as favourites, but this is not the vintage Barcelona side of a few years ago.