Thursday, December 13, 2018

Prediction: Chelsea vs Barcelona

Verdict: Over 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 17/20

Bookmaker: Bet365

Chelsea face a huge test of their Champions League ambitions as they take on Barcelona in the last-16 of the competition.

Chelsea

The west Londoners have had an indifferent start to 2018, being knocked out of the Carabao Cup last month after a run of five successive draws. Heavy defeats to Bournemouth and Watford followed, with serious questions being asked about Antonio Conte’s position. The slide has stopped for now, with comfortable home wins over West Brom and Hull in the past week offering much-needed respite to the champions, who sit a distant fourth, well behind leaders Manchester City with the defense of their title all but over.

Team News

David Luiz and Tiemoue Bakayoko are dealing with injury problems and are unlikely to feature on Tuesday night. Ross Barkley is still working on the hamstring problem that kept him out of the first half of the season. and will not start against La Liga leaders.

Barcelona

For the visitors on Tuesday night, the runaway La Liga leaders are having a record-breaking season in Spain’s top division, Ernesto Valverde’s side are now unbeaten in their last 24 appearances in all competitions, the Catalan giants now hold a seven-point gap over second-place Atletico Madrid. Although Barcelona are blessed with glittering talent in the final third, it has been defensively where the La Liga giants have been at their best recently, Barca have now only conceded two goals in their last eight matchups.

Team News

Ernesto Valverde has no new injury concerns, with Thomas Vermaelen a doubt for the tie, but unlikely to feature in the starting XI regardless, boasting a fully fit squad otherwise.

Ousmane Dembele has been passed fit and could start against the English champions, while club-record signing Philippe Coutinho is cup-tied, having featured for Liverpool in the group stages.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Barcelona have won only one of their six away games against Chelsea in the Champions League (D1 L4), it was in February 2006 (2-1). They have also never kept a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge.
  • Chelsea have either won or drawn nine (90%) of their last ten home Champions League matches.
  • Eden Hazard has scored three goals and delivered two assists in his last five Champions League games.
  • Lionel Messi has played 655 minutes against Chelsea in the Champions League but has yet to score. Against no other team has he played that many minutes without ever finding the net.
  • Barcelona are now unbeaten in their last 24 matches in all competitions.

Conclusion

Although Chelsea have shown their inconsistencies against the likes of Watford and Bournemouth earlier this month, the Blues have now scored seven in their last two matches and will fancy their chance of causing an upset against a Barcelona side who have famously struggled at Stamford Bridge in the past.  However, with both Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez leading the goalscoring charts in La Liga this season, Antonio Conte will be more than aware of the attacking talent Barcelona posses. Backing over 2.5 goals on Tuesday night seems like the most logical bet here.

Verdict: Over 2.5 goals

Best Odds: 17/20

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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