Chelsea take on Barcelona tonight in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge. The Blues will want to take a lead back to the Nou Camp, but the daunting task of facing Lionel Messi and co. is very much real.
Antonio Conte has a host of options, but will need to nail his tactics and selection to stand a chance of overcoming Ernesto Valverde’s side.
Conte’s decisions will mostly centre around three picks: Antonio Rudiger or Gary Cahill, Danny Drinkwater or Willian and Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud or Eden Hazard as a false No.9.
The Frenchman played well against Hull and Conte clearly wanted the former Arsenal star for his ability to help him change up their approach.
Barcelona will be without Philippe Coutinho, who is cup-tied after his involvement in the competition with Liverpool. While Ousmane Demebele is still not fully fit, which denies Valverde two wide options and suggests a diamond formation.
After eight games and 29 shots, Messi is still to find the back of the net vs Chelsea, and Conte is well aware of that trend.
“I hope we maintain this tradition,” Conte said. “It won’t be easy because we are talking about one of the best players in the world.
“And if we focus on just man-marking Messi, it can be very dangerous.”
Barcelona have raised concerns over the Stamford Bridge pitch ahead of their clash with Chelsea. The two sides meet in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday night. Barca trained on the Stamford Bridge pitch on Monday night and reports in Spain suggest they were unimpressed by the length of the grass.
Mundo Deportivo reports the Catalan giants voiced their concerns and were hopeful the problem would be resolved by kick-off. Chelsea, who have played twice at home in the last eight days, cut the grass on Tuesday and were aided by rain throughout the afternoon.
Chelsea predicted team: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Alonso, Fabregas, Kante, Pedro; Hazard, Morata.
Barcelona predicted team: Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Dembele, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Suarez, Messi
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