Chelsea returned to Barcelona for the first time last week since their heroics in the 2012 Champions League semifinals. Fernando Torres was the hero for the Blues on that night, having come off the bench – what wouldn’t the Londoners have given for another individual to step up in their loss to the Blaugrana this term?
Lionel Messi finally ended his goal drought against Chelsea in the first and second legs of Barcelona’s last-16 tie with the Blues. After a 1-1 draw in the first-leg, Antonio Conte’s side travelled to the Camp Nou in hope of a historic night but they were beaten 3-0 and Barca’s pint-sized magician was a class above the rest.
Chelsea knew they had a lot to do when they travelled to Camp Nou on Wednesday night after the 1-1 draw in the first-leg. However, after just three minutes, Antonio Conte’s side had the steepest of mountains to climb which they failed to do, losing 3-0 on the night and 4-1 on aggregate. Lionel Messi got the first and the third goals with Ousmane Dembele getting a brilliant second in between.
It would not be an exaggeration to call Willian Chelsea’s saviour at the moment.
The Brazilian winger, 29, has this uncanny ability to assume the mantle of Chelsea’s hero at the most opportune of times. It happened in 2015 as Chelsea attempted that lamentable defence of their Premier League title under Jose Mourinho. It was one of the most forgettable seasons in Chelsea’s history but Willian’s efforts helped to lend it some dignity.
The Blues’ title defence this time around is not nearly as bad but it has still been seriously wanting. Willian once again seems the player most ready to step up to the plate by delivering one inspiring performance after another. His goal against crystal palace was his fifth in as many games, bringing in season tally for Chelsea to 13. Only Eden Hazard has scored more this season, and Willian has never been more prolific since arriving at Stamford Bridge.
His stunning form has meant that a player who so often in the past had to settle for a place on the bench is now virtually undroppable.
Antonio Conte: Willian playing ‘fantastic’
The Chelsea boss may have preferred Pedro to Willian for most of the season so far but he was singing the number 22’s praises after the win over crystal palace.
“You can see that if a player stays in great form I’m the first to pick him in the starting XI,” Conte told his press conference. “Willian is playing in a fantastic way, but I want to underline, not only with the ball, also without the ball.
“He’s working very hard and he’s helping the team without the ball. He’s showing great maturity at this point of his career. In my heart I hope to see him at this level, to continue this performance. He’s playing very well with the ball, without the ball.
“It’s important to have balance within the game, because when we lose our balance it’s very difficult.”
This means that Willian is almost assured of his starting berth against Barcelona on Wednesday. If the speedster continues where you left off in the first leg of the tie, the likes of Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti will certainly have something to think about at Camp Nou.
Chelsea’s number 22 could easily have had a hat trick in that game had the posts not been so kind to Barcelona (and suspiciously thicker).
Ahead of the game, the player himself has spoken of his joy in having secured his spot in Conte’s Starting XI. He told Chelsea FC’s magazine on Tuesday:
“I think you have to enjoy yourself on the pitch. To play football, you have to be happy. I have to enjoy this moment now. When you start to play more games, or when you play every match, you have confidence and things are good for you, then you can keep smiling.”
If William graces the Camp Nou pitch on Wednesday, as indeed he appears likely to, every Chelsea fan will have a reason to be optimistic.
Featured image: Twitter
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has always been a darling character at each of the clubs he has played for, but two of them face off against each other on Wednesday.
Having played out a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the match, Chelsea travel to Spain with the hope of overcoming one of the best teams in Europe in order to advance the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Fabregas started the Stamford Bridge leg and is likely to be involved again with Chelsea desperate for goals at Camp Nou on Wednesday.
The midfield maestro was signed as a prodigious teenager by Arsenal before returning to Barcelona, from whose youth academy he had initially been spawned. There, he spent a memorable three years with the likes of Leo Messi and Gerard Pique, forging strong friendships with both of them. The Chelsea man is especially close to Messi and their spouses enjoy the same kind of affection.
Fabregas: ‘Can’t say if I will celebrate’
While he has no qualms against taking to the notoriously wide Camp Nou pitch against his pals, what Fabregas is unsure of is how he will react if he’s lucky enough the score one past his former side.
“Honestly, I haven’t thought about it at all. I’ve only scored two goals this season and it’s been a while since my last goal,” he told Marca on Monday.
“There are feelings at such a moment that you can’t predict, I can’t definitively say I won’t celebrate, but it’s unlikely I would.”
The only thing that 30-year-old World Cup winner is sure of is that he will not be stepping his foot off the gas despite his special relationship with Wednesday’s opponents.
Asked about the prospect of facing his former team he said: “I did it with Arsenal and now with Chelsea, I’ve felt pretty good on both occasions. It doesn’t bother me to play against my previous club or old friends, it motivates me.”
Out to make Messi ‘uncomfortable’
The extent of his friendship with Messi includes vacationing together in the exotic Spanish island of Formentera as recently as last summer.
Nonetheless, Fabregas is hellbent on denying the five-time Ballon d’Or winner any space when they square off on Wednesday.
“If I am lucky enough to play, it’s true that we are positioned in nearby areas of the pitch, stopping him will be difficult but I will try to do everything possible so that he feels uncomfortable and can’t put together a perfect performance,” he added.
“I see him as a rival who wants to win, and I want the same thing. We are in different teams and each player wants what is best for their own club. Obviously, you always have respect for each other.”
Fabregas played 151 times for Barcelona between 2011 and 2014, scoring 42 times.
Featured image: Twitter
One of the world’s biggest clubs was in town on Tuesday night as Chelsea hosted La Liga leaders Barcelona in their Champions League Last 16 first-leg. The Premier League champions looked to have executed a perfect tactical performance as Willian put them one goal ahead before a poor decision from Andreas Christensen led to Lionel Messi’s first-ever goal against the Blues.
Anyone who classes themselves as a Chelsea fan should remember one of the most controversial nights in the history of the club. The date was May 6, 2009 and the Blues were in with a huge chance of successive Champions League finals against Manchester United after a goalless draw at the Nou Camp in the first leg of the semi-final.
Football fans across the world will be looking forward to Tuesday night as Barcelona travel to Chelsea in their Champions League Last 16 first-leg. The visitors are in imperious form this season and are the only side left in Europe’s top five leagues not to have lost a league match, while the Blues are fourth in the Premier League with a 19-point gap between them and league leaders Manchester City.
Chelsea coach Antonio Conte says he has “doubts” as to who should be in his starting XI for Tuesday’s mega-clash against Barcelona.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has warned his charges against making the curtailing of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi a one-man job.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte feels that his side can beat Barcelona in their Champions League last-16 clash, with the first leg taking place this Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.
Out-of-favour Chelsea defender David Luiz looks set to stay with the Blues until at least the end of the season, despite reports linking the Brazilian with a number of potential suitors in recent weeks.
Catalan giants Barcelona could be set to make a sensational move for rising Chelsea star Andreas Christensen, according to recent media reports.
After Chelsea failed to secure top spot in this season’s UEFA Champions League group stage, they had to settle for second place behind Roma. This means they entered Monday morning’s draw knowing they would face one of the winners of the other groups (Barcelona, PSG or Besiktas) in the last 16.