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Barcelona

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Ernesto ValverdeBarcelona‘s manager is happy with his team’s result tonight at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of the Champions League last 16.

Our performance? It seemed pretty good to me,” Valverde said after the game. “We went to a place where it’s difficult to play. [Chelsea] are the champions of the Premier and we carried their weight from the first whistle. They had some strong players who posed us problems on the counter, but they hardly had any chances. It’s a good result and I think we deserved the 1-1. It’s difficult when so many players group up against you. It’s difficult to find space. Therefore, you must fight back with quality, pace and good finishing. Did Messi drop too deep? Possibly, but they defended with five at the back. If we put five more up top, they’d defend with 10 players there and they’d enjoy the space as a result. We had to protect ourselves, so we’re happy in that sense. How do I see the return leg? There’s still a long way to go. That’ll be the decisive match. To some extent, they’ll be more obligated [to perform], but our approaches may be similar. Why Aleix and not Dembele? [Dembele’s] been out injured for a while, and for a match like this, Coaches go with the things they know best”. Aleix also gives us things, a different profile. When we’re faced with a match like this, I rely on certainties. I had to play Paulinho as a starter and then bring on Aleix Vidal for more depth. It wasn’t the time to experiment. That’s how I see it.”

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, speaking to SkySport in Italy, was also asked on Alvaro Morata‘s exclusion from the starting XI: “These games are fights and you need sacrifice” he said. “We needed a balanced squad, with [Alvaro] Morata and [Eden] Hazard together we would have risked to lose two important players in “non-possession situations. Anyway, Willian and Pedro both sacrifice themselves in a better way”.

“We must understand our players’ characteristics and what they can give you with or without the ball. Sometimes we produce undeserved seppuku, sometimes I am disappointed to make certain decisions but my task is to give balance to my squad and we must exploit all the chances we create”.

About a potential role for Italy, Conte added: “I was clear, I am contracted here until 2019 and I am committed, keen to respect this contract. Then in modern football anything can happen, some marriages come to an end for many reasons: this is our job, very particular job. If something happens, I will be grateful to be named Italy coach again”.

 

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Willian was the best player tonight on the pitch during the Champions League clash between Chelsea and Barcelona.

The Brazilian hit the post twice in the first half and then he scored the Blues goal in the second part of the game, before Lionel Messi equalised for Ernesto Valverdes side.

I’m happy for the goal but I’m a bit sad with the result. I think we deserved to win – they had more possession but we created dangerous chances to score,” Willian told BT Sport. We have to go there and play the same game. I was a bit unlucky (hitting the post twice). I have to keep on working and look forward to the other games.”

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte spoke after the first leg of Champions League’s eight-final against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge.

The Italian manager said: “Not angry, for sure I am disappointed and sorry as well as my players. When you play these games against teams like Barcelona you have to do a perfect job to get the best, to win the game, but we made a mistake and we paid for it. We faced a team with players like [Lionel] Messi, [Luis] Suarez, [Andres] Iniesta. We were not so lucky and this is a pity, we knew their weak points: we’ll give our best, everything, at Camp Nou”.

When asked about his future and the relationship with Chelsea fans, Conte said: “Chelsea changed 10 managers in 14 years, the press point the finger against you as soon as you fail to get some results. After our first defeat against Burnley newspapers were already writing about my sacking, this is a routine of English press, there’s a lot of pressure but I’m not bothered by that: I always look for pressure”.

On Morata’s exclusion from the starting XI: “These games are fights and you need sacrifice. We needed a balanced squad, with [Alvaro] Morata and [Eden] Hazard together we would have risked to lose two important players in “non-possession situations. Anyway, Willian and Pedro both sacrifice themselves in a better way. We must understand our players’ characteristics and what they can give you with or without the ball. Sometimes we produce undeserved seppuku, sometimes I am disappointed to make certain decisions but my task is to give balance to my squad and we must exploit all the chances we create”.

 

 

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Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas believes the Blues deserved a better result tonight vs Barcelona at Stamford Bridge based on the performance Antonio Conte‘s side produced on the pitch vs the Spanish giants.

It is such a shame really. I thought we were very good, we executed the game plan really well, we were compact, solid, played as a team and created lots of chances – Willian could have had a hat-trick – but we go home sad because a fantastic performance is not a fantastic result,” Fabregas told BT Sport. “It is still open though and we have showed that we can compete and we will need another excellent performance at the Nou Camp to go through. You have to have a lot of personality to play against this team who has 70% of the ball. We have to go there to attack and score because 90 minutes defending at the Nou Camp is an eternity, it is a suicide mission. We have to play our game.”

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Speaking to BT Sports tonight during the coverage of the first leg of the Champions League last 16 between Chelsea and BarcelonaManchester United legend Rio Ferdinand claimed he was impress both by Willian‘s performance and the Blues’ tactical display.

Conte got his tactics spot on today”. Rio Ferdinand said. “It was a very compact team and they picked their times well in coming out and causing Barcelona problems. Willian today was the one who produced.”

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Goalless draw at half-time between Chelsea and Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 which is been playing at Stamford Bridge.

Ernesto Valverde‘s side dominated the ball possession, but the best chances were for Antonio Conte‘s Blues: Willian hit the post twice with two shots from outside the box, at 33′ and 43′.

Hazard went close to score twice as well, but his shots were just a little wide.

The only chance for Barcelona was an header by Paulinho that went wide.

A very unlucky Chelsea that showed character and pace.

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CHELSEA – Courtois, Rudiger, Alonso, Moses, Christensen, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Kante, Pedro, Willian, Hazard

Subs: Caballero, Zappacosta, Cahill, Drinkwater, Hudson-Odoi, Morata, Giroud

Manager: Antonio Conte

 

BARCELONA – Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Busquets, Paulinho, Rakitic, Iniesta, Messi, Luis Suarez

Subs: Cillessen, Denis Suarez, Dembele, Digne, Gomes, Vidal, Vermaelen

Manager: Ernesto Valverde

Venue: Stamford Bridge

Kick-Off: 7.45PM BST

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Chelsea captain Gary Cahill is among the players who spoke ahead of tonight’s clash against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. The England international, who faced several times Luis Suarez – when the Uruguayan was playing for Liverpool as well as at World Cup – knows the damage the 31-year-old can cause.

Cahill said: “There have been games where he has killed me and won the game for the opposition, but I have also had moments where my team has won and it’s been good. There have been a lot of different performances but I have to respect he is a very special player”.

“The last time I played against him in a competitive match was in the World Cup and I will never forget it.  He scored a great first goal and the second was very fortunate because one of our players deflected the ball back towards our end and he went on to finish. It meant we were out of the World Cup. It wasn’t just one of my worst moments playing against him, it was one of the worst moments during my time in the game.

“I had good experiences too. Even though I was injured for the 2012 Cup final, I picked up a winners’ medal and there were also some big League wins against his Liverpool side. Anyway, you have to be a special player to go to Barcelona and make your mark like he has done at a club where Messi is revered”.

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Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger suffered a hugely disappointing defeat when faced Barcelona at Nou Camp in November 2015 as the Spanish giants won 6-1 against the Serie A side, who earned an 1-1 draw in the first game of Champions League group stages.

Rudiger himself, speaking ahead of tonight’s clash against Barcelona, said: “It was important for us to bounce back after two defeats and is just what we needed. We can go into the first leg with a good feeling: our mental side of playing in Europe is different. You can see Real Madrid haven’t been doing as well as they’re used to in the Spanish league, but in the Champions League they did very well against Paris St Germain”.

Chelsea play the first leg at Stamford Bridge, before facing Barcelona in Spain on 14th March: “This is a different competition, it’s two games, this is a chance for us to do things right and we have to take it” Rudiger said.

“We all know Barcelona like having the ball. We have to try to make the match cat and mouse. Of course, it is important we have experienced players. In the last 16, everyone is tough. We are playing at home first and it will not be easy for them to come here, with the fans behind us. We have to do our job and try to do the best we can.”

“Everyone knows what kind of quality Messi has. But we have to take this match. We are playing at home and it could be an advantage for us. When I was younger, I was dreaming about playing in a game like this. I think everyone does. I played against them before with AS Roma, but now I’m with Chelsea.”

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