Chelsea looks for another good showing at Camp Nou
By TALES AZZONI
Mar. 12, 2018
MADRID (AP) — Few teams have caused as much trouble for Barcelona as Chelsea since Lionel Messi started playing with the Spanish club almost 15 years ago.
Barcelona has been dominant with Messi against nearly every opponent it has faced in Europe.
But not against Chelsea.
The English club is even used to doing well against Barcelona at Camp Nou Stadium, where the teams will meet Wednesday in the second leg of their last-16 series in the Champions League.
Chelsea is unbeaten against Barcelona in eight matches, with four straight draws at Camp Nou.
Barcelona earned a 1-1 draw in the first match in England thanks to a late away goal by Messi, who had never scored against the Premier League club.
"It will be a hard match just like in the away leg," Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. "They have a strong team that defends well in a block and has a great counterattack. We will struggle."
Barcelona has been thriving again this season. Its only loss came against Real Madrid in its first match of the season in the Spanish Super Cup final. It has won 18 of its last 20 home matches since then, with two draws — 2-2 against Celta Vigo and 0-0 against Getafe in the Spanish league.
"We have to show great resilience," Chelsea coach Antonio Conte said. "We are playing against one of the best teams in the world. We must pay great attention and have the same focus and concentration of the first leg."
This is the first time Chelsea and Barcelona are facing each other in the Champions League since the semifinals in 2012, when the English club advanced 3-2 on aggregate after securing an astonishing 2-2 draw in the second leg at Camp Nou, after trailing 2-0 with 10 men for most of the match.
Chelsea also drew at Camp Nou in the Champions League semifinals in 2009, as well as in the group stage of the 2006-07 season and the round of 16 a year earlier.
Chelsea is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time since 2014, when eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the semis. Barcelona is looking to reach the last eight for a record 11th straight time.
The Spanish league leaders are coming off a 2-0 win at last-place Malaga on Saturday, when Messi didn't play because of the birth of his third son, Ciro.
It remains unclear if Valverde will be able to count on midfielder Andres Iniesta on Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.
Here's a look at the other matches this week:
Jose Mourinho may be faced with a dilemma when Manchester United hosts Sevilla on Tuesday.
With Paul Pogba ruled out of United's Premier League victory over Liverpool on Saturday, Mourinho's side finally managed to find the balance it has been lacking in recent weeks. If the France midfielder is available, Mourinho would have to drop Juan Mata or 21-year-old Scott McTominay to make room for him.
United, which drew the first leg 0-0 in Seville, is trying to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2013-14.
"The next game is very important for us, maybe the most important game of the season," United midfielder Nemanja Matic said.
Sevilla is trying to make the quarterfinals for the first time.
Roma will be hoping it has turned its poor home form around when it hosts Shakhtar Donetsk needing to overturn a 2-1 defeat.
Roma beat Torino 3-0 on Friday for what was only its second win at Stadio Olimpico since mid-December.
"Mentally, the lads felt a bit of pressure because we hadn't won at the Olimpico for a while — and I could see that," Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco said. "Today's win shows that we've cleared the hurdle now."
Besiktas is dreaming of becoming the first team to overturn a five-goal deficit in the UEFA competition when it hosts Bayern Munich on Wednesday, although restoring its pride will likely be enough after a chastening 5-0 first-leg defeat in Munich.
The Turkish champion, playing in the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time, is hoping to extend its 12-game unbeaten run at home in European competitions.
Bayern has made it to the Champions League quarterfinals six years in a row, but hasn't won the title since coach Jupp Heynckes' previous stint in 2013, when he led the side to a treble.
It warmed up for its trip to Istanbul with a 6-0 rout of Hamburger SV on Saturday.
"You can never hide in football, you can never take it easy," said Heynckes, who has 25 wins and just one defeat in 27 games across all competitions since returning to Bayern.
Associated Press writers Ciaran Fahey, Daniella Matar and Sam Johnston contributed to this report.
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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni