European rivalries are often difficult to come by, because teams rarely play each other enough to develop a fierce level of hatred. In the case of Chelsea and Barcelona, there remains plenty of bad blood from previous meetings over the last decade and a half.
On Tuesday night, the European heavyweights will once again square off in another chapter of their storied and controversial history in the UEFA Champiosn League. The two sides come into the game experiencing very different luck this season, but many know that when it comes to this fixture, form gets thrown out the window.
Chelsea: The Blues are going through a season full of ups and downs, but will have to steady the ship in order to pull off the upset over Barcelona. Tuesday’s first leg will be at Stamford Bridge, meaning Antonio Conte’s men will need to be at their very best defensively to avoid conceding a crucial away goal.
Chelsea have a few injuries to worry about heading into the Champions League knockout clash. Defenders David Luiz and Marcos Alonso are doubtful for the meeting, despite the latter returning to training. Tiemoue Bakayoko is unlikely to feature in midfield, while Ross Barkley may be fit enough to return to the squad.
Projected XI: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Emerson; Hazard, Morata, Willian.
Barcelona: The Spanish giants are enjoying a successful season in Spain so far, cruising atop La Liga and on course to win multiple trophies this season. With many dubbing Barcelona as the favourites to win the Champions League, they’ll first have to overcome their long time kryptonite, Chelsea.
Barcelona may welcome back Ousmane Dembélé after Ernesto Valverde announced he could be fit enough to return to the starting lineup. Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for the European games after appearing for Liverpool earlier in the campaign. NélsonSemedo will miss out due to suspension, while Thomas Vermaelen has been ruled out through injury.
Projected XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Dembele, Suarez, Messi.
The bad blood between these two sides stretches all the way back to 2005, when Chelsea, led by José Mourinho at the time, triumphed over Barcelona over two legs. That meeting sparked a European rivalry that hasn’t died down at all.
In the 2009-10 campaign, Andrés Iniesta’s stoppage time thunderbolt sent Barcelona through to the Champions League Final on away goals, after Chelsea were denied four blatant penalties.
Chelsea were victorious the last time these two teams met, overcoming a 2-0 second leg deficit in the Camp Nou to go through on away goals. Fernando Torres’s iconic equalizer in stoppage time confirmed Chelsea’s spot in the final, adding to the long list of memorable moments in their rivalry.
Lionel Messi will be aiming to cross off a personal blemish on his European resume, as the superstar has yet to score against Chelsea in his eight meetings with the English giants.
Despite Barcelona leading La Liga, and Chelsea dwelling in fourth in the Premier League, Tuesday’s first leg will pit two long-time rivals against one another with even more history set to be made.