Chelsea v Barcelona – They can have weakness without the ball – Conte.

Chelsea face Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16 first leg tomorrow night and despite their 31-game unbeaten run, Antonio Conte...

Chelsea face Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16 first leg tomorrow night and despite their 31-game unbeaten run, Antonio Conte has revealed that the Catalan side are not infallible. 

It’s the big one, Chelsea vs Barca and a game that we have been waiting for since the draw was made. It’s games such as these that we have been dreaming of ever since we started the season having missed out on Champions League football last year and working so hard to get back.

For Chelsea fans it’s a special tie against a familiar foe with a famous history between the two sides in the biggest club competition in world football. You think of famous nights in the past, the victories at home over the years, the fantastic performances away and the fact that Lionel Messi has failed to score against us in eight attempts, the game is going to be hyped up in the next 24-hours with reminders of every single moment from history.

The simple fact remains that Chelsea were the one team who the Spanish side could not stand to play against. They hated playing against us because we were physical, we were strong, and we had no fear of playing them. We could sit back and defend in a low-block waiting for the right moment to strike and on numerous occasions that proved to be the case as we took advantage of the Barcelona weakness which is their defence. In my view it was not the best in the world back then, and it isn’t the best now, it’s just making sure you deal with their obvious attacking threat first. 

Having revealed that he has studied Barcelona’s playing style and their game over the past month, Antonio Conte has been quick to point out that the team who sit seven points clear in La Liga and are unbeaten in 31-games do have a weakness and he will be looking to his players to exploit.

He said:

“On one hand you know this team is one of the best in the world – maybe they are favourites to win this competition. On the other hand, we must be excited because we have a great opportunity to play a massive game against a really strong team and to show which is our level.

For sure we are talking about one of the best teams in the world. We have to try to, I repeat, have the perfect game, the perfect game to try to make the best decisions. For this type of team, because this is a different opponent, they have fantastic characteristics with the ball. But they can have weaknesses without the ball and we have to try and exploit this.” Source: The Guardian.

For Chelsea it’s imperative that they do not play with fear or literally in awe of their opponents. We must stick to the game plan to ensure we maximise any opportunities we have to turn them round, get in behind their initial first wave of pressure towards the ball high in our half, to then find the likes of Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata in between the lines to exploit the space.

The team must execute the game plan without the ball and keep their defensive line pushed up, to not get sucked back too deep that also forces our midfield to do the same. If that happens, we could see the likes of Hazard and Morata becoming isolated and played out of the game.

It’s without question the biggest game we have had as a football club since we took on West Brom away last season to win the Premier League. Chelsea have a fantastic record in the Champions League despite being virtually written off ahead of this one.

Can Antonio Conte deliver the perfect solution to Barcelona. Will our big players stand up to be counted on the biggest stage against arguably, one of the best teams in the world? Finally, can this Chelsea team demonstrate their fantastic ability going forward and take the opportunities that they will create and beat Barcelona over two-legs?

Only time will tell.

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