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FC Barcelona

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A good Chelsea is stopped by Leo Messi, who scores his first goal ever to the Blues, and get only a 1-1 in the first leg of this Champions League last of 16.

Antonio Conte‘s side were really unlucky in the first half, when Willian hit the post twice in only seven minutes, at 34′ and 41’ with two shots from his from the box limit.

The Blaugrana, as usual, were dominant in the ball possession and in the game control, but they were barely dangerous, just a couple of headers by Paulinho and Pique that went wide.

Besides the posts, Chelsea were close to score also with Eden Hazard ( twice) whose shots went high on the crossbar and Antonio Rudiger, who was close to net the ball with a header.

Valverde’s side seemed more determined in the beginning of the second part, Suarez had his first attempt saved by Thibaut Courtois but it was Chelsea who took the lead when at minute 62′ Willian finally found the net with another shot from the limit after a short corner: it was the moment Stamford Bridge stands shook.

Barcelona, anyway, had a reaction after finding themselves one goal down and put all their effort to equalise: a draw that came at 75′ after a horrible defence from the Blues, with Marcos Alonso giving away a ball with a horizontal pass near the box while Barça were pressing close to it, Fabregas and Azpilcueta missed it, Iniesta got it and immediately assisted Messi who was able to score his first goal to Chelsea after eight attempts.

Chelsea also had the time to throw a couple of counter-attacks away, with Alvaro Morata that entered only at 82′ for Pedro, who had never been able to be dangerous against his former team.

Everything will be decided in three weeks at Camp Nou, where the game promises to be thrilling.

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Chelsea striker Pedro signed from Barcelona in summer 2015 and was part of the Blaugrana side that was beat by the Blues in the 2012 Champions League semifinal.

The Spanish striker recalls that tie, claiming it was one of the saddest moments of his career:

This memory stays with me even now, a very sad day for me and my team-mates,” said the Chelsea forward.

“I remember a lot of things: when you control the game and score the first goal, but then Leo [Messi] missed a penalty and then Fernando [Torres] scored with the game’s last touch to finish the tie… I remember it all because it was such a sad day for Barcelona and for all of us.”

“I remember these games so well. Chelsea were always horrible opponents, very difficult in these games: compact, strong in defence, pressed very well. For that reason, we always found it difficult against them.

Speaking ahead Chelsea’s last-16 tie against his former side, Pedro added:

“For the players of Barcelona, they’ll be thinking this tie is going to be very tough, this game for them, because Chelsea are strong. Chelsea are compact, and it’s never easy to play against us.”

“The reality is it’s not impossible for us [to advance to the quarter-finals],” he claimed

.”It’s possible for us to beat Barcelona and go through into the next round. It’s difficult because they’re a very great, big team, but it’s not impossible.”

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Chelsea's Frank Lampard, left , chases after Barcelona's Lionel Messi during their Champions League semifinal first leg soccer match at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in London,Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

Frankie Lampard faced Leo Messi more than once during his career and the Argentine star has never succeeded in scoring to Chelsea in all the previous encounters, where Lampard was present as well.

The Blues legend knows how to stop him and, besides this, he  rates Messi, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner, as the greatest player of all time, admitting his former club will need luck to stop him in his tracks.

However, Super Frank believes N’Golo Kante holds the key to try to stop him in this tie:

“Whoever is nearest to him has to take the responsibility to take that space because the minute you let him get his head up and run freely at you, you won’t get near him. I can say that from experience.

“There will be periods when you just have to back off. The problem is that being at home, there will be people wanting to see Chelsea have a bit of a go at them.

“But their players are that good, you have to back off to deny them the space where they can really hurt you.

“It is a fine line for Chelsea. They need to sit back but at the same time put pressure on him so he doesn’t become relaxed on the ball.

“This is where I think N’Golo Kante will be key. He is the one in Chelsea’s midfield with the abilities you need because he is so quick into the tackle.

“But it is important all 11 press their opponents, starting with those players at the top of the pitch.”

 

 

 

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Tomorrow night it will be a special one for Cesc Fabregas, who will face Barcelona, the side he grew up in, his childhood team, the one who gave him another chance signing him back from Arsenal before letting him move to Chelsea in summer 2014.

The Spanish midfielder shared his feelings and thoughts about this special game for him:

“It’s a big game for everyone I think, for the whole club, and I think for English football,” Fabregas explained to Chelsea website.

“It’s always great to welcome these fantastic teams in European football. It’s a massive night for the players, for the club and for English football in general. Hopefully we can do well and give a good image of what we can do and give a good performance.”

The Spain international also reveals he will not have any problems putting his emotions to one side as he and Chelsea attempt to knock his former club out of European competition:

“Of course, it’s my hometown, it’s the club I supported for all my life, but once you step on the pitch it just goes away. I did it before with Arsenal. I don’t try, it just happens naturally. You want to do well for your club and that’s it.

“I have big friends, friends that I played with since I was 13 years old. I speak to some of them nearly every day, even when I don’t play against them, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be about football. Probably now the contact is a bit less, probably unconsciously because of the game coming up.

“We are old friends but when we are on the pitch they will try to beat me and I will try to beat them. For me, friendship is a fantastic thing but in football, when you play against each other, it clearly changes.

“I think they’re still a great side. You can see with Ernesto Valverde they play a different type of formation, especially when they defend they play more of a 4-4-2. You can see that everyone is committed, everyone is giving their all, defensively and offensively,’ said the 30-year-old, who has also identified one aspect of the game which could prove decisive.

“They are a team that try to put the first pressure very, very high, always working to have the ball, so if we can pass this first phase of their pressure, if we have the cool head to do that and not put ourselves under too much pressure, I think we can hurt them, because they will leave a lot of spaces at the back. We have days now to work on the game and I’m sure the manager will find the best solution.”

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Eden Hazard is convinced Chelsea can beat Barcelona in this tough Champions League tie:

“I think all of the games are difficult. When you play in the CL it is more than difficult. This season Barcelona are one of the best in the world. We will give everything in both games.

“We need to defend as a team, if we don’t then we are in trouble. It is right to play our football. We like the ball and when we have it we need to score goals. Tonight is key at Stamford Bridge.”

Asked if he feels he can be compared to Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi:

“First it is good to be compared with the greatest ever. But I am different. I try to do my job and reach my level to their level because they are the best in the world. If you want to be one of the best you have to play well in the big games.”

Chelsea will face Manchester United next weekend, an important weekend for them:

“For sure. Like I said we play football, we are Chelsea and the champions of England.”

Asked if we have to expect more coming from him:

“I think so. Every game I try to play my best football. This year we are back in the Champions League, you want to shine when you play the best team in the world. If I want to reach that level I have to play at the best.”

About his future:

“First I see the game tomorrow. I’ve been playing for Chelsea for six years and I am happy here, my family is happy here and focus about the end of the season. I don’t focus too much on the future.”

About Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta:

“I think he is one of the best players with Messi in Barcelona history. He is still at the top and maybe played for ten years. I remember when he scored in the last minute, for Chelsea fans it is not a great memory. Now it is the past and we focus on the present and tomorrow is the future.”

About the tie:

“We know that it is tough to beat Chelsea. We are in a good position and will give everything. Barcelona is one of the best clubs in the world and they have had trouble against us and I hope tomorrow is the same.”

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte spoke ahead of the really important Champions League game against Barcelona:

“For sure we are talking about a massive game, a big challenge for us, against one of the best teams of the world, “ the Italian coach said while facing the international press in Stamford Bridge press room tonight.

“We must be excited to play this game against Barcelona.

“We must pay great attention but at the same time we must have ambition.

“We know their characteristics, they like ball possession and to dominate the game. We try to do what we like as well, what we try during the trainings.

“I think we start this game as underdogs, for sure, Barcelona are favourite to go through next round, but at the same time we’re excited to get this challenge. This game will let us understand what is our level in this competition. 

“Barcelona are having a fantastic season, they are top of the league, they are the Spanish cup final. This game will let us understand which is our level in the present.

Messi… we’re talking about the best player in the world, he’s got the capacity to solve situations, even with a chance. He’s a fantastic player, but we’ve to pay attention also to other players, like Suarez, Iniesta or others. 

“We have to work very hard, we have to know that during the game we must be prepared to suffer, but we also know that in every moment of the game we have to be ready to score.

“I think that after the game in FA Cup it was a bit difficult to sleep, because when you have to play these kind of games you have to prepare everything, you have to prepare the details because it’s what sometimes move the result. 

“I think that in this specific moments for us it’s very important to stay at a top level.

“As I said before, we’re talking about a tough game, for this reason we must pay great attention, we must have a plan, Barcelona have specific characteristics , we studied the opponent very well, we try to do what we know and what we prepared.

“I don’t know how many times I felt the pressure, but this is football, if you want to compete at the maximum level you have to cope with this pressure, the pressure must be your friend not your enemy.

“We have to play a perfect game if we want to win tomorrow, you start these two games with one favourite, and it’s Barcelona, because of what they have been doing for many years in football.

“At the end of the game if we are very good we will win the game.

“When you are top of the table and win a game you don’t feel the fatigue, in this case we’re speaking about a Champions League game and in Barcelona there are many players that are used to play these games.

“We have to play and to face a great team like Barcelona with our strength, tomorrow we must be excited and play with enthusiasm, passion. 

“We start the game 0-0, it doesn’t matter what the other side did in the past, now the most important thing is the present, and Barcelona is our level. It’s a great chance for us to prove what kind of team we’re and we will try to go through the next round.”

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After tonight win against WBA Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was relieved to have found some confidence before some important clashes like the upcoming ones against Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City:

“What I know is that tonight was fundamental to get three points back, to win this game, especially to find again some confidence, because when you lose two matches in a row in a bad way the confidence decreases,” the Italian coach claimed after the final whistle.

“It was also important for us to have some rest and we rested for two days.

“We started the game with a few confidence, we made some mistakes, West Brom could have scored but we were back in the game, we scored and we could have scored even more goals.

 

“It was important to overcome this hard moment.

“Now we have important clashes, like the one against Barcelona, and we had to find our confidence again before facing them.”

 

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New Manchester United striker Alexis Sanchez reveals that Chelsea made Leo Messi cry.

It happened in 2012, after the Champions League semifinal the Blues won on a 3-2 aggregate, before flying to Munich to lift the trophy.

With a 1-0 lead from the first-leg, Chelsea produced a great defensive display in the second-leg in Barcelona. After seeing captain John Terry sent off early in the game, the Blues managed to draw 2-2 at Camp Nou with Fernando Torres scoring late in the game for Chelsea.

 

“You might cry during a game if you lose a final,” said Sanchez.

“That’s all part of football. In the Barcelona dressing room after the Chelsea game, I saw Leo Messi cry.

“That’s because players demand so much from themselves. People don’t see that.”

 

 

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Leicester City boss Claude Puel welcomes rumours linking Riyad Mahrez to Chelsea and Arsenal.

The Algeria international seems keen to move to London, or even to Liverpool, as the Reds are looking for a talented player to replace Philippe Coutinho, who transfered to Barcelona for a £ 140m record fee.

After the Watford game, Puel was quizzed about Mahrez’s future.

“It is a good thing people always ask me about Riyad because it shows he is playing well.

“I get asked about his future and it is a good thing because we have a good feeling.

“He gave an assist and scored a goal, and he is showing good consistency with and without the ball. He is a good player.

“Because he is an experienced player with good maturity and he can give a good example with his play also.”

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Eden Hazard and his team-mates are not scared about Champions League draw, who can put Chelsea against two powerful teams like Paris Saint Germain or Barcelona in the competition Last 16 next February since the Blues qualified as second in their group:

“It’s not a problem. We are Chelsea. We can face any team. We know PSG and Barcelona, they are very good. But we are Chelsea and we have to be ready for everything. We can do everything.”

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