Barcelona vs Chelsea: Three weeks ago Chelsea got a moral boost from the 1-1 draw at the Bridge, frustrating as it may have been. It gave the players belief that they could compete alongside the best of the best.
As we learnt in that game and from the result of the Manchester United game yesterday night, the margins are very small and results can hinge on the smallest of errors.
So here we are. La Liga is pretty much wrapped up by now, so Barcelona must do well in the Champions League to make this a successful season. Winning it is never guaranteed, but the semi-finals should be a realistic target. However in order to reach the Final Four, Barça have to get past Chelsea at Camp Nou and reach the quarter-finals first.
Blaugrana and Blues clash on Wednesday night in what should be the most competitive tie in the whole Round of 16. Antonio Conte’s Chelsea played a fantastic first leg and Barça were really lucky to not lose at Stamford Bridge, and they have to improve a whole lot to reach the next stage. T
his will be a really tough game for Barça, and Ernesto Valverde has a chance to silence some of his critics if his team plays a great game in front of the Camp Nou crowd.
Team news Chelsea: A clean bill of health, except for David Luiz. Antonio Rüdiger was out on Saturday with muscle fatigue. That’s a fancy way of saying he was being rested. He’s back and available, as is Tiémoué Bakayoko. Barkley is healthy but Conte has said he’s taking it very slowly with him, so it may be unlikely to see action.
Team news Barcelona: We know that Andres Iniesta has been racing against time to be fit for this one after pulling his hamstring a week ago Sunday, and he might be close to winning it. Possible replacements include André Gomes, Ousmane Dembélé, Aleix Vidal and Paco Alcacer. Denis Suárez, another possibility, is himself out with an injury and Philippe Coutinho, their £142 million man, is cup tied.
Besiktas vs Bayern Munich: Despite no team having ever overturned a 5-0 deficit in the knockout stages of the Champions League before, Bayern Munich will not be taking anything for granted when they face Besiktas in the second leg of their last-16 tie this evening at the Vodafone Arena.
The Bundesliga champions head to Besiktas Park in imperious form in the Champions League having won their last five matches in a row in Europe’s premier club competition, including their 5-0 rout of Senol Gunes’ side in the first encounter.
However, despite that healthy advantage, Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has warned his team against complacency in the Turkish capital.
“The demands are always so high in the Champions League,” said Heynckes, who is looking to become the first coach to win 11 straight games in the competition with victory on Wednesday.
“Despite our commanding position in the Bundesliga, we are working with great intensity because we can still perfect our defending, pressing, passing and attacking.
“We have several experienced players in our squad. Despite the 5-0 win in the first leg, we must start with intensity and my players are aware of this.”
Meanwhile, Gunes just wants his players to put in a performance in front of their own fans.
“We wanted to qualify, or at least experience an exciting tie but the big difference [in the first tie] did not suit us well,” he said. “We will still try to get a result, playing our best game.
“We know Bayern have come here with the strongest line-up possible, and we will try to play with our best side. We are bidding farewell for this year, but we want to leave a good impression as we go with the aim of getting here again next year.
“In front of a capacity crowd, we want to play good football against Bayern Munich tomorrow.”
Besiktas will be without injured duo Dusko Tosic and Pepe, while suspended Croatia international defender Domagoj Vida also misses out.
Meanwhile, Kingsley Coman and Manuel Neuer are sidelined for the visitors due to injury, and Corentin Tolisso and Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez are also doubts for the trip to Istanbul.