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Champions League, Barcelona vs Chelsea: Attack the only option for Conte's side against Catalans

By Prashanth Kumar
Ivan Rakitic of FC Barcelona trains with Andre Gomes (right) during a training session ahead of their match against Chelsea (Image: Twitter/@FCBarcelona)

Bengaluru, March 14: It may sound ludicrous but Chelsea have no option but to attack when they visit Barcelona at Camp Nou for the second leg of their Round of 16 encounter of the Champions League. The score is poised at 1-1 with the Catalans holding the away goal advantage after Lionel Messi eked out a late goal at Stamford Bridge, cancelling out Willian's strike.

In this scenario, even a 1-1 scoreline, taking Barcelona to extra-time and eventually penalties seems far-fetched considering the firepower Ernesto Valverde's side possesses. It's an uphill task for Chelsea, nonetheless. Beating Barcelona at their own turf or drawing them in a high-scoring game are the only two ways they can progress.

Scoring early and playing a defensive game is a bad option for Chelsea. Sevilla showed Manchester United the perils of playing with a defensive setup on Tuesday night and given that Andres Iniesta is back for Barcelona after suffering an injury during the Atletico Madrid game, Chelsea have to push forward.

Chelsea have stunned Barcelona before - in 2012 - but the current lot is not the same as the band of brothers which played five years ago at Camp Nou. That Chelsea 2012 side had a brilliant spine in John Terry (regardless of his knee), Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Branislav Ivanovic, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba.

Sadly, Conte does not have players of such passion and tenacity at his disposal. Though the current lot of Chelsea players are talented, they do not have the mindset the legends possessed.

To add to their woes, Chelsea have been beaten by Manchester City and Manchester United since they last met Barcelona. Barcelona on the other hand have beaten Atletico Madrid, an ultra-defensive team that plays like Chelsea. Conte will have to put all his tactical experience into this game if he is to come away with a result.

Hazard up-front will not work

Hazard up-front will not work

The biggest dilemma will be the striker, if Chelsea decide to play very defensively, then Conte could line up Hazard as the lone striker. However, in the game against Machester City, we saw how ineffective he was in that position. Hazard needs a player to create space for him and he definitely needs some good service - something which Pedro has definitely not provided. (Image: Twitter)

Giroud ahead of Morata?

Giroud ahead of Morata?

A start for Alvaro Morata or even Giroud (who has been in better than Morata off late) could provide width and space that Hazard needs. This could create some problems for Barcelona but the probability of that occurring is very low. (Image: Twitter)

Kante to mark Messi

If Conte decides to contain Barcelona and then try and nick a goal towards the end then they will need N'Golo Kante to be at his best. Though he is nowhere near the form he displayed last year, he will be crucial in cutting off the supply to Messi.

Impact man Willian

Another Chelsea player who could have an impact is Willian, he turned up against Barcelona in London and his ability to turn up during big games makes him a favorite to help Chelsea overcome this obstacle.

After going out of top-four in the Premier League and four points behind fourth-placed Liverpool (60 points), Chelsea need a win desparately to turn their season around. They might not go to win the Champions League but a win against Barcelona will give them impetus to push for a top-four finish.

Where to watch:

Barcelona vs Chelsea

Live on Sony Ten Network and Sony Liv

At 1.15 am (Thursday, March 15)

Besiktas vs Bayern Munich

Live on Sony Ten Network and Sony Liv

At 10.30 pm (Wednesday, March 14)

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    Story first published: Wednesday, March 14, 2018, 17:55 [IST]
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