Chelsea take on Barcelona tonight in the first leg of their last 16 Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues will want to take a lead back to the Nou Camp, but the daunting task of facing Lionel Messi and co. is very much real.
Antonio Conte has a host of options, but will need to nail his tactics and selection to stand a chance of overcoming Ernesto Valverde’s side.
Conte’s decisions will mostly centre around three picks: Antonio Rudiger or Gary Cahill, Danny Drinkwater or Willian and Alvaro Morata, Olivier Giroud or Eden Hazard as a false No.9.
The Frenchman played well against Hull and Conte clearly wanted the former Arsenal star for his ability to help him change up their approach.
Barcelona will be without Philippe Coutinho, who is cup-tied after his involvement in the competition with Liverpool. While Ousmane Demebele is still not fully fit, which denies Valverde two wide options and suggests a diamond formation.
Willian is in good formConte could spring a surprise by starting Willian and Pedro with Hazard as a false No.9
After eight games and 29 shots, Messi is still to find the back of the net vs Chelsea, and Conte is well aware of that trend.
“I hope we maintain this tradition,” Conte said. “It won’t be easy because we are talking about one of the best players in the world.
“And if we focus on just man-marking Messi, it can be very dangerous.”
Barcelona are heavy favourites
The Blues face a daunting task of stopping Messi and Suarez (Image: REX/Shutterstock)
Antonio Conte aiming to extend Lionel Messi’s Chelsea hoodoo as Barcelona visit Stamford Bridge
Probable Chelsea XI
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Pedro Willian, Hazard.
Probable Barcelona XI
Ter Stegen; Sergi, Umtiti, Pique, Alba; Sergio, Iniesta, Rakitic, Paulinho; Messi, Suarez.
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