Chelsea host Barcelona this evening in the first leg of their unenviable Champions League last-16 tie and I’m expecting the visitors to claim the advantage.
Much has been made of Chelsea’s record against Barcelona in the build-up to this match as they are unbeaten in the last seven games between the two, while Lionel Messi has never managed a goal against the Premier League side in eight matches.
However, the last time these two sides met was six years ago and both are now very different teams. The only player in the Chelsea squad from that match still on the books at Stamford Bridge is Gary Cahill, while current Blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas lined up for Barca that evening.
As such form has to be the key factor ahead of tonight’s first leg and Chelsea have been struggling of late with just four wins in their last 12 matches in all competitions. In contrast, the Catalan giants have won 15 of their last 19 games in all competitions and have lost just one game all season – a Copa del Rey loss at local rivals Espanyol.
Barcelona came through the Champions League group stages with 14 points from a possible 18 but they did draw two matches 0-0. However, Chelsea will know they will almost certainly need a win in the first leg if they are to progress so they may take a few risks going forward and that should give Barca space to exploit at the other end.
Barcelona are 6/5 to claim the victory but as six of their last 10 games on the road have been victories by at least two goals I’m going to take the 59/20 on an away win with a -1 handicap as my top bet for this Champions League clash.
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