Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side face their toughest acid test of the season when they travel to the Nou Camp to lock horns with FC Barcelona. As it stands, the aggregate is at 1-1 and if the Blues are to proceed to the quarterfinals, an away goal is a must.
Although the Catalans aren’t unfamiliar opponents, Chelsea will have to play out of their skins, with all the heart, and come out with the right intent as they have endured a lustreless recent form. On the bright side, the English champions have lost just once in their previous ten meetings against Barcelona. Their last four visits to Camp Nou have all been draws. If Conte can get his tactics spot on, it could well be a thriller of a battle.
Antonio Rudiger is likely to return to the starting lineup after being sidelined last time out. Apart from that, Conte has no fresh injury concerns to address. David Luiz and Ross Barkley are, however, ruled out.
Probable Chelsea XI
Conte should go with the similar 3-4-3 system but what makes most of the difference is who will play up front. It will be interesting to see if he tinkers with Eden Hazard’s position again. At the back and in the midfield, the team should more or less remain the same.
Manager – Antonio Conte
Formation – 3-4-3
GK: Thibaut Courtois
Courtois will start in goal. He will have a busy outing for sure.
RCB: Cesar Azpilicueta
Chelsea’s most reliable player will have to escort his defence and shut out the opponents’ movements.
CB: Andreas Christensen
Apart from a few errors, the Dane has been disciplined and sturdy at the back. He should start this game.
LCB: Antonio Rudiger
Rudiger, who is preferred over club captain Gary Cahill, will play on the left-hand side of the back three.
RWB: Victor Moses
Moses should replace Zappacosta at right wing-back. After a much-needed rest, the Nigerian will be up and ready to take Barcelona down.
CM: Cesc Fabregas
It will be an emotional return for him but keeping that aside, Fabregas needs to elevate his game to the next level and shepherd his team forward.
CM: N’Golo Kante
The energetic, sharp and the lively Kante will occupy the central role in midfield.
LWB: Marcos Alonso
Alonso will continue at left wing-back. He is rather solid and composed at the back. It would be a real bonus for the Pensioners if he gets forward explosively.
Five goals in five appearances, Willian has been setting the field on fire in recent weeks. He was breathtaking against the Catalans in the previous leg and will have to do nothing lesser if Chelsea are to progress further.
LW: Eden Hazard
Hazard on the left-wing is an absolute nightmare for the opposition defence. He has created the same number of clear-cut opportunities for his teammates as Neymar did in this season’s UCL and should start this game in this position.
ST: Olivier Giroud
He needs to start for Chelsea. Conte must play a target man up front and allow Willian and Hazard to carry the ball. Giroud is in fine touch too.