After a string of two successive defeats at the hands of the Manchester clubs in the Premier League, Chelsea gave a good account of themselves against Crystal Palace ahead of their decisive Champions League tie.
The Blues registered a 2-1 victory over Roy Hodgson’s charges over the weekend, a win which will without question come as a lift to the crestfallen champions.
Chelsea traveled to the Camp Nou on Wednesday night for the return leg of the Champions League round of 16 against an indomitable Barcelona side.
Although Antonio Conte was mindful of the unpredictable nature of the away goal rule, it’s unlikely that the EPL side will usurp Barca for a place in the last eight.
While Chelsea are out of a Champions League qualification spot and a staggering 25 points adrift of champions in waiting Manchester City, Barcelona are in autopilot mode in the La Liga with an eight-point cushion over second placed Atletico Madrid, and fifteen behind Real Madrid in third.
Teams that struggle domestically, more often than not, replicate the same form on the European front. Ernesto Valverde’s charges are competing for the treble, and as such shouldn’t have any trouble making it to the Champions League quarter-finals.
The Messi factor
Lionel Messi is quite rightly the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation, if not of all time.
The Argentina international ended his longstanding hoodoo of not scoring against Chelsea in five Champions League matches.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who played an intricate role when Barcelona overturned a 4-0 deficit to win 6-1 against Paris Saint-Germain at the same stage of the competition last season, looks set to inspire the Blaugrana for a place in the quarter-finals.
History repeating itself
Barcelona have never fallen at the first hurdle of the knockout stage since losing to Liverpool eleven years ago.
Save for the home advantage, Ernesto Valverde’s side have the quality to not only advance into the quarter-finals, but also clinch the illustrious trophy.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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