?So drawing Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16 was probably the worst way it could go for Chelsea. And while the Blues may ultimately bow out early in the competition, it won’t be without high drama – just the way they like it.
If anything, Chelsea’s adventures against Barcelona in the Champions League have been filled with entertainment. So no matter which way this goes, fans will be expecting something either sensational or thespian.
Chelsea’s last face-off with the Catalan side didn’t disappoint. In fact, it remains as one of the club’s highest points in their history, as they went on to win the Champions League final after recording a 3-2 aggregate scoreline against them.
The second leg of the tie was one of the most amazing we’ve seen, especially as the Londoners were doing quite poorly in the Premier League and had no business even being there after their first-leg defeat to Napoli. To make things a whole lot worse, John Terry left them with 10 men with a silly foul on Alexis Sanchez quite early in the match.
Most people will tell you that it should have been the end for the Blues after that first Napoli clash, yet they somehow found their way back, beat Benfica to book a date with Europe’s most fearsome team led by the best manager in the world at the time, and marched on to the final.
For their fans, it is the longest match they have ever had to go through, although the final against Bayern Munich was something in itself. But the orgasmic shrieking of Gary Neville when Fernando Torres rounded Victor Valdes to seal the deal late on still resonates and makes every laboured heartbeat worth it.
It’s why the Stamford Bridge faithful gave the Spaniard a standing ovation when he was subbed off for Atletico Madrid in their last group stage match, despite the forward providing the telling touch that left them 1-0 down.
Five years later, the Blues have been drawn against the familiar Spanish opponents. But despite the rocky campaign thus far, fans have every reason to feel encouraged.
The 2009 semi-final was just as eye-catching, and everyone – if being honest – will tell you that the Blues deserved to go through, and would have if it had not been for Tom Henning Ovrebo’s utter incompetence.
This time around, the circumstances are similar to that of 2012’s. But of course, back then it was a bit worse. Chelsea, while out of the title race, are still in third place and do look a much stronger team in the league than they did five years ago.
At the moment, no one is confident in their chances of lifting the trophy this time around – certainly not with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain kicking about. Manchester City, who are much closer to home, are playing some of the best football in Europe as well, while Antonio Conte’s cup record isn’t much to shout about.
So the stage is perfectly set. A strong Barcelona side leading La Liga, as things stand, versus a Chelsea outfit currently struggling in the league, but with a certain Spanish striker who used to play for a Madrid team.
Fernando Torres and Alvaro Morata are the only Spaniards to score against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico in Champions League. (Via @OptaJoe) #CFC#UCL#CHEATM
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) December 5, 2017
There’s surely every possibility of being made to look out of their depth when facing Barcelona next year. But a lot can happen between now and February. And there’s no reason why Chelsea fans shouldn’t be welcoming this draw.
Like Eden Hazard said when questioned over the possibility of drawing Barca last week: “We are Chelsea. We can do everything!”