Barcelona v Chelsea: Back Valverde's men to find a way past Blues block

Willian and Andrés Iniesta
Chelsea will be up against it on Wednesday night
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Jack Lang is expecting Barça to shade a tight game on Wednesday night...

"Chelsea will likely sit deep, as they did against Man City, which means both that Barça could be restricted and that chances will be few and far between at the other end"

Barcelona v Chelsea
Wednesday, 19:45
Live on BT Sport 2

Home comforts for Barça

League all but sewn up? Check. Spot in the cup final sealed? Check. They might not have been quite at their imperious best over the last few weeks, but Barcelona are still in an envious position domestically. Now attentions return to the Champions League, and while Chelsea remain a threat, the Catalans will be confident of progressing to the quarter-finals.

Barça had to weather a storm at Stamford Bridge but have been imperious at home this season, winning 18 of 20 games at Camp Nou since the Spanish Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid back in August. Juventus, Sevilla, Valencia and Atlético Madrid have all headed home empty-handed in that spell.

The return of Lionel Messi - absent against Malagá at the weekend after the birth of his son - is a major boost, and it looks like Andrés Iniesta, who was forced off in the 1-0 win over Atlético Madrid, could be fit to start. If he does, the only major selection dilemma will be between Paulinho and Ousmane Dembélé for the berth on the right of midfield.

Chelsea up against it

A grinding home victory over relegation-threatened opponents wouldn't normally be much to write home about, but Chelsea's win over Crystal Palace was a much-needed fillip. The Blues had won just three of their previous nine games before Saturday's match - at home to Newcastle, West Brom and Hull - and the manner of their defeat to Manchester City had set alarm bells ringing.

One game will not silence the rumblings of discontent behind the scenes, but at least the Blues have a minimal amount of momentum behind them coming into this game. And further belief can be drawn from their display in the first leg, in which they dealt reasonably well with Barça - at least until that fatal mix-up that gifted Messi his goal.

Eden Hazard started up front in that one, and may do so again here despite his obvious misgivings about the role. But much will come down to whether Chelsea's backline can cope with what is likely to be an attacking onslaught from Messi and co.

Barça may edge low-scoring game

Barcelona are the better team and, given Chelsea's listless form, it is no surprise that the hosts are [1.25] to qualify. 68% of teams who have drawn the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie 1-1 away from home have progressed, and having Messi in your side is always worth a few extra percentage points.

Yet there's reason to think Chelsea can at least put up a fight here. The Blues are unbeaten in eight Champions League games against Barcelona, for a start, with the last four meetings at Camp Nou ending level. Their last trip to Spain went well, too: they put in one of their best displays of the season at Atlético Madrid to pick up a win in the group stages.

Chelsea will likely sit deep, as they did against Man City, which means both that Barça could be restricted (the Blaugrana have also struggled for goals recently, in relative terms) and that chances will be few and far between at the other end. With Valverde's men having kept eight clean sheets in their last ten at Camp Nou, this could be low-scorer.

Under 2.5 goals is an option at [2.3], therefore, but we prefer the leeway of a 2-1 Barcelona victory, and shall thus back the hosts and under 3.5 goals at 6/5.

Messi the man again

Messi finally broke his Chelsea duck in the first leg and has been in sensational form, scoring five times in his last four outings. He will be raring to go here after a rest at the weekend and is [1.74] to notch.

Jack Lang's Champions League P/L, 2017/18

Staked: 13pts
Returned: 11.99pts
P/L: -1.01pts

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