One of European football’s most enduring recent rivalries will be rekindled after almost six years as Chelsea welcome Barcelona for the first leg of their round of 16 tie.
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The teams have met 12 times, all in the Uefa Champions League – and all since 2000. Furthermore, five of those contests have been knockout ties, and all have proved compelling.
This is their third round of 16 tie, with Barcelona bidding to reach the quarter-finals for a record-extending 11th year in a row. Chelsea, meanwhile, have progressed beyond the round of 16 only once in the last five seasons, and were beaten in their two most recent ties at this stage.
This tie is one of two in this season’s round of 16 to bring together two former European champions: FC Porto’s meeting with Liverpool is the other.
The teams have faced each other 12 times in UEFA competition with four Chelsea wins to three for Barça and five draws.
Chelsea came out on top when the teams last crossed paths, in the 2011/12 semi-finals. Didier Drogba scored the only goal of the first leg in west London.
The teams at Stamford Bridge on 18 April 2012 were:
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Meireles, Lampard, Mata (Kalou 74), Ramires (Bosingwa 88), Drogba.
Barcelona: Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi (Cuenca 87), Iniesta, Fàbregas (Thiago 78), Messi, Alexis Sánchez (Pedro 66).
Barcelona looked to have turned the tie round when Sergio Busquets levelled on aggregate 35 minutes into the second leg, two minutes before Chelsea captain John Terry was sent off, with Andrés Iniesta putting the Spanish side in front on aggregate two minutes before the break.
A minute into first-half added-time, however, Ramires chipped Chelsea back into the contest and – after Lionel Messi had smashed a 49th-minute penalty against the crossbar – substitute Fernando Torres broke clear in added time to confirm Chelsea’s place in the final, where they would defeat FC Bayern München to win a first UEFA Champions League.
Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro Rodríguez, both now Chelsea players, featured for Barcelona in that tie.
It was another night of high drama in their meeting at Stamford Bridge on 6 May 2009. After a goalless first leg in the semifinal, Michael Essien gave Chelsea a ninth-minute lead in the return and Barcelona then lost Éric Abidal to a red card. However, Andrés Iniesta’s added-time equaliser sent the Spanish side through.
The line-ups that night were:
Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Cole, Lampard, Essien, Ballack, Anelka, Drogba (Belletti 72), Malouda.
Barcelona: Valdés, Alves, Touré, Piqué, Abidal, Busquets (Bojan 85), Xavi, Keita, Messi, Eto’o (Sylvinho 90), Iniesta (Gudjohnsen 90).
Barcelona have won three of the clubs’ five previous two-legged contests in the UEFA Champions League, although in their round of 16 meetings it is one triumph apiece. Barcelona were 3-2 aggregate winners at this stage in their 2005/06 title-winning campaign (2-1 away, 1-1 home) but Chelsea had prevailed 12 months earlier, turning round a 2-1 Camp Nou defeat with a 4-2 success at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea recorded a 3-1 home first-leg win in the 1999/2000 quarter-final, but succumbed 5-1 after extra time in the Camp Nou return.
They were also paired together in the 2006/07 group stage, Chelsea winning 1-0 in London before a 2-2 draw in Spain.
The London club’s record in the round of 16 is W8 L4. They lost at this stage to Paris Saint-Germain in both 2014/15 and 2015/16.
This is only the third time Chelsea have been at home in the first leg of their round of 16 tie; their current record is W1 L1, both in that home first game and in those ties overall.
Chelsea have played ten two-legged knockout ties against Spanish clubs (W4 L6), most recently in the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League semi-finals when they lost 3-1 in the home second leg, and overall, to Club Atlético de Madrid.
Chelsea have already faced Spanish opposition in this season’s competition, taking four points from their two Group C games against Atlético.
The 2-1 victory at Atlético on matchday two is the Blues’ only success in their last six fixtures against Liga clubs, home and away (D3 L2).
Antonio Conte’s side collected five points at home in Group C, opening with a 6-0 defeat of Qarabag FK before being held to a 3-3 draw by AS Roma on matchday three and concluding with a 1-1 draw against Atlético.
The Blues have the record of W9 D5 L2 at home to Spanish visitors. The sole defeats were that Atlético reverse in 2014 and the 2-1 loss against Barcelona in the 2005/06 round of 16 first leg (2-3 aggregate).
Champions of England for a sixth time in 2016/17, Chelsea were not involved in European competition last term for the first time since 1996/97. They had appeared in every UEFA Champions League group stage going back to 2003/04.
The Stamford Bridge side lost 2-1 at home to Paris in the 2016 round of 16, their sole defeat in their last 11 European matches in west London (W6 D4).
Barcelona have been in the round of 16 every year from 2004/05 onwards, winning 11 of those 13 ties. Both defeats came against English opposition – that 2005 loss to Chelsea, and an away-goals reverse against Liverpool two years later (1-2 home, 1-0 away).
Twelve months ago, Luis Enrique’s side produced the biggest comeback in UEFA Champions League history to win their round of 16 tie. Barça looked to be heading out when they lost the first leg 4-0 at Paris Saint-Germain, only for a stunning 6-1 second-leg success to turn the tie on its head.
The Blaugrana’s last trip to England was a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City FC in last season’s group stage – a result that ended a three-game winning run away to Premier League clubs.
Barcelona’s record in away games against English opposition is W9 D8 L15.
This season the Spanish side picked up five points on their travels in finishing top of Group D, winning 1-0 at Sporting Clube de Portugal on matchday two before 0-0 draws at both Olympiacos and Juventus on matchday five.
Barcelona have lost three of their last seven away games in the UEFA Champions League, including the 4-0 defeat at Paris in last season’s round of 16 first leg and the ultimately crucial 3-0 quarter-final first-leg loss at Juve, bowing out by the same aggregate score. They have won five of their last 14 away matches in the competition, drawing four and losing five.
Barcelona have won 13 of their 23 two-legged ties with English clubs. That 2012 defeat by Chelsea is the only reverse in their last seven contests.
COACH AND PLAYER LINKS Antonio Conte was an unused substitute in both legs of Juventus’ UEFA Champions League quarterfinal winagainst Barcelona in 2002/03.
Fàbregas and Pedro both came through the youth ranks at Barcelona. Fàbregas departed for Arsenal FC in 2003 but returned to the Camp Nou eight years later, scoring 28 goals in 96 league appearances – winning the UEFA Super Cup in 2011, the Copa del Rey in 2012 and the Liga the following year – before joining Chelsea in 2014.
Pedro was part of the Barcelona side that won the UEFA Champions League in 2009, 2011 – when he opened the scoring in the final against Manchester United FC – and 2015. He also lifted three UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups, five league titles and three Copa del Rey titles with the Catalan club, scoring 58 goals in 204 Liga appearances between 2008 and joining Chelsea in 2015.
Have played in England:
- Thomas Vermaelen (Arsenal FC 2009–14)
- Luis Suárez (Liverpool FC 2011–14)
- Gerard Piqué (Manchester United FC 2004–06 & 2007/08)
- Paulinho (Tottenham Hotspur FC 2013–15)
Have played in Spain:
- Thibaut Courtois (Club Atlético de Madrid 2011–14)
- Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid CF 2010–14 & 2016/17)
- César Azpilicueta (CA Osasuna 2006–10)
- Marcos Alonso (Real Madrid Castilla 2008–10, Real Madrid CF 2010)
- Willy Caballero (Elche CF 2004–06 & 2006–11; Málaga CF 2011–14)
- Suárez scored twice in his six games against Chelsea for Liverpool (W2 D2 L2).
Olivier Giroud played in both legs of Arsenal’s defeat by Barcelona in the 2015/16 round of 16 (0-2 home, 1-3 away).
Courtois faced Barcelona ten times while with Atlético Madrid in Spain (W1 D5 L4). The only victory came in the 2014 UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg as Atlético went on to reach the final.
Morata scored for Juventus in their 2015 UEFA Champions League final loss to Barcelona in Berlin.
Have played together: David Luiz & Lucas Digne (Paris Saint-Germain 2014–15)
- Álvaro Morata, César Azpilicueta, Pedro Rodríguez, Cesc Fàbregas & Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Denis Suárez, Sergio
- Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Andrés Iniesta, Paco Alcácer (Spain)
- Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois & Thomas Vermaelen (Belgium)
- Tiémoué Bakayoko, N’Golo Kanté & Lucas Digne, Ousmane Dembélé, Samuel Umtiti (France)
- David Luiz, Willian & Paulinho (Brazil)
- Antonio Rüdiger & Marc-André ter Stegen (Germany)
UEFA Champions League squad changes
In: Ross Barkley, Olivier Giroud, Emerson Palmieri
Out: Jake Clarke-Salter, Michy Batshuayi, Kenedy, Charly Musonda
Chelsea won five of their first seven fixtures after matchday six (D1 L1) but then went on a run of five successive draws. That was followed by two wins and a defeat, although Antonio Conte’s side had lost successive games at home to AFC Bournemouth (0-3) and at Watford FC (1-4) before beating West Bromwich Albion FC 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on 12 February.
The defeats against Bournemouth and Watford were the first time the Blues had lost consecutive league games by a three-goal margin since October 1995 (1-4 v Manchester United FC, 0-3 v Blackburn Rovers FC).
Eden Hazard scored twice against West Brom, and has six goals in his last six Chelsea appearances.
The Bournemouth defeat was Chelsea’s first in 16 home games in all competitions (W10 D5); they have won the last two.
Twelve of the 23 Premier League goals Chelsea have conceded this season have come in the final half-hour.
On Friday Chelsea were 4-0 winners at home to Hull City AFC in the last 16 of the English FA Cup.
The London club will visit Leicester City FC in the last eight, with the game to be played between 16 and 19 March.
Chelsea’s English League Cup campaign was ended in the semi-finals by a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal FC; the Blues lost by the same aggregate scoreline.
January signing Ross Barkley, who had not played this season for previous club Everton FC due to a torn hamstring, has been out since 31 January with another hamstring problem.
Marcos Alonso has been out since 31 January due to an ankle injury.
David Luiz (out since 10 February) and Tiemoué Bakayoko (11 February) have both been sidelined by knocks.
UEFA Champions League squad changes
In: José Arnaiz, David Costas, Yerry Mina
Out: Gerard Deulofeu, Javier Mascherano, Rafinha, Arda Turan
Nélson Semedo serves a one-match ban in the first leg.
The only team still unbeaten in this season’s Liga, Barcelona went on a seven-game winning run in the league after matchday six – including a 3-0 success at Real Madrid CF on 23 December – but had drawn their previous two fixtures before Saturday’s 2-0 win at SD Eibar.
Barça have got the better of RC Celta de Vigo (6-1 aggregate), RCD Espanyol (2-1) and Valencia CF (3-0) in the Copa del Rey to set up a final against Sevilla FC at the Estadio Metropolitano, home of Atlético Madrid, on 21 April.
Barcelona have won the trophy in the last three seasons.
Espanyol beat Barcelona 1-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final on 17 January – Ernesto Valverde side’s first defeat in all competitions since losing the Spanish Super Cup second leg 2-0 at Real Madrid on 16 August.
The Blaugrana’s record since that Madrid loss is W29 D8 L1.
Only two of Barcelona’s 62 goals in this season’s Liga have come in the first 15 minutes.
Luis Suárez has scored ten goals in 12 games in all competitions in 2018, but had not found the net in his last three before getting the opener at Eibar at the weekend. The Urguayan scored in ten out of his 11 appearances between 10 December and 1 February – 13 goals in all.
January signing Philippe Coutinho – who is not eligible for the UEFA Champions League – scored his first Barcelona goal in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg against Valencia on 8 February.
Thomas Vermaelen has been out since 21 January due to a hamstring problem. Ousmane Dembélé, who had not played since 16 September due to a ruptured tendon, returned on 4 January but was sidelined between 14 January and 11 February with a hamstring problem; he was an unused substitute on Saturday.