Champions League

Chelsea braced for Champions League onslaught as Barcelona and Messi come to town

Chelsea v Barcelona, Wed 19:45
With a cup double now in their sights, Chelsea will be focusing their efforts on European success after what has been a disappointing campaign on the domestic front as Bet365 offer free bets and long odds on Roberto Di Matteo’s Champions League chances, as they mark Barça down as favourites to leave Stamford Bridge triumphant.

The Blues booked their spot in the FA Cup final over the weekend after trouncing Tottenham 5-1 and despite the unsavoury nature in which Chelsea took their lead, spirits will be high in their camp.

Chelsea have now lost just once in their last ten outings and although they are far from assured a Champions League qualification spot, the West London outfit have shown significant signs of improvement over the last month.

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That being said, with all the confidence and self-improvement they can muster, the last line of the English representatives are still going up against the world-beaters that are Barcelona, who are seeking their third Champions League victory in four years.

Chelsea’s recent record is good but Barça’s is, in a word, better.

The Spaniards have won their last eleven league fixtures and although a trip to London is further than they will be used to travelling, the La Liga team have netted an average of 2.91 goals per game this season, making them a considerable force whether on home soil or not.

Following a rocky 2011-12 campaign, Gerard Piqué has been highlighted by some analysts as a potential weakness in the Barça backline and one that can be exploited by the hosts on Wednesday.

Another area Chelsea are sure to be attacking is left-back which is looking more vulnerable since Eric Abidal fell ill.

Adriano can fill in to the full-back slot but Carlos Puyol is likely to be pushed out to the left side with Javier Mascherano potentially filling in at centre-back, making the aerial route more plausible.

Chelsea have absences of their own however, after Gary Cahill was listed as a doubt for the encounter with an injury still lingering from the weekend win over Spurs.

The home outfit will be happy to welcome back Branislav Ivanovic though who, despite a domestic suspension, is available for European matters.

Speaking during the week, former Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri backed up his old club, stating: “It is not all about stopping Lionel Messi, because Barca are not only Messi. There is Xavi, there is Iniesta. They have so many great players and it is important that the Chelsea defence is solid under pressure,”

“But Chelsea have some good players too. If they play at their maximum then anything is possible.”

It’s that mentality with which Chelsea will enter this match and they will need to be able to express themselves to the maximum if they are to bring any sort of advantage to the Camp Nou next week.

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