It was a mismatch on paper, one that even the Chelsea manager acknowledged in humility ahead of their crunch tie with Barcelona.
The crestfallen English champions were to either sink or swim in the encounter, with the match being part of an unforgiving stretch of games domestically and in Europe.
The game however was to be conceivably won or lost in the line-ups, although it wasn’t the case for either of the teams in this particular sketch, as they drew 1-1 in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16.
Barcelona may have had the upper hand with a vital away goal, but Chelsea still have a fighting chance heading into the second leg at the dreaded Camp Nou.
Dangerous going forward
Alvaro Morata has immense experience not just in the Champions League but likewise against the Blaugrana, which made Antonio Conte’s decision to bench the Spaniard all the more odd.
His tactical master plan of playing Eden Hazard as a false number nine however panned out sweetly, as Willian set Stamford Bridge alight in the 62nd minute with the opener.
Chelsea had a string in their attack and created more chances going forward, something they will need to do in the reverse fixture; albeit with caution.
Solid defensive display
Antonio Conte admitted to losing sleep over the tie, and the amount of sleep or lack thereof in preparation for the encounter paid tantalizingly.
The Italian made a massive call in starting Andreas Christensen ahead of skipper Gary Cahill, while the likes of Victor Moses, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso helped with the defensive duties.
Chelsea’s backline was peach and their strict adherence to defensive duties was impeccable, the likes of which may prove of use in the second leg.
Not a defeat
In a perfect world Chelsea could have won and Willian could have netted a hat-trick had he been both clinical and lucky, but it wasn’t a loss nonetheless.
Lionel Messi’s equalizer in the 75th minute handed the visitors the advantage by virtue of the away goal rule, something Chelsea should endeavor to capitalize on when they travel to Spain on March 14.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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