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Premier League

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Chelsea are in the UEFA Youth League quarter-finals as Joe Edwards’ Under-19 squad beat Feyenoord with a comfortable win tonight. Goals from Ampadu (6′), Redan (10′), St Clair (77′) and a couple of own goals secured the Blues a 5-2 win at the Recreation Ground in Aldershot.

Chelsea will face Real Madrid in Spain, where the first-leg “is scheduled for the week commencing 12 March”, as the Blues’ official website confirmed.

 

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Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has warned his teammates ahead of next Champions League trip to Nou Camp, where the Blues will face Barcelona on 14th March.

The Spaniard, who left La Liga giants in 2014, told BT Sports: “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”.

“It is still open though and we and we will need another excellent performance at the Nou Camp to go through”.

Chelsea were dominant against Barcelona, before conceding a goal late in the second half: “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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Willian was undoubtedly Chelsea MVP in last night clash against Barcelona: one goal and two posts hit during the game and the feeling that he could have trashed them in any moment of the game.

The Brazilian has been on fire in the last couple of weeks and he’s more than ready to face Manchester United and Manchester City in the next two Premier League games.

The first one will be next Sunday at Old Trafford, where Willian will face his friend José Mourinho, the man who believed in him in 2013 when we wanted him to sign for Chelsea and that has tried to bring him to United before:

“He is my friend. I had a great time with him, but I am at Chelsea and he is now at Manchester United, said Willian about the Special One.

“It is totally different to play in the Premier League [compared] to the Champions League. I think we can stay at this level and we can go to Old Trafford on Sunday and play another great game. We have to play in a similar way.

“Against Manchester United, I think we can do a great job.

“Against Manchester City it will be like the game against Barcelona – they like to have the ball. We have to stay compact and use the same plan we used against Barcelona. We can win these games. We will go there to try to win.”

 

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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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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 – 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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Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde, who recently warned his players ahead of Champions League clash against Chelsea, spoke yesterday at Stamford Bridge as the game takes place tonight (8.45PM BST)

About the Premier League champions, Valverde said: “Yes, it’s a strong league, we’ve seen a 5-0 win from Liverpool against Porto, we’ve seen what Manchester City have done so far and we would have wished that Chelsea had finished first in their group so we wouldn’t have to play them right now”.

“They are the current Premier League champions” he reminded “that gives you an idea of how tough the league is. Maybe they were having a tough time at the beginning of the season but now they seem to be coming on”.

Valverde added: “They have very good players like [Alvaro] Morata, [Eden] Hazard, Pedro and [Olivier] Giroud, they are a very difficult team to face”.

 

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Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic spoke ahead of tomorrow’s game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

When asked if Eden Hazard could be considered one of the most important players in world, he warned: “Yes, he is probably one of the most important players for Chelsea, but they are not only Hazard. He is really fast and in the last games he has been in really good form: It will be a really special game.”

Rakitic added: “We know Chelsea’s players, we know they are very strong, You start the game to not think about the end, we want to score a goal away from home but it won’t be easy.”

“In this sense we just want to play another game, manage it and control. Everything is going to plan but tomorrow we are playing against the English champions and it will be a hugely tricky game. We want to win the game and we will give everything.”

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