?Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has revealed he has been studying Barcelona for the past month to dissect the defensive “weaknesses” within Ernesto Valverde’s outfit ahead of their Champions League last-16 meeting on Tuesday.
The Blues welcome the runaway Premier Division leaders to Stamford Bridge in midweek, with the visitors making the trip after only tasting defeat once in any competition since the beginning of the season.
But despite recognising that Blaugrana will be an extremely tough test, the Italian is confident his side can inflict damage on their opponents when they are in possession of the ball.
“We have been analysing this team for a long time”, the 48-year-old told ?Sky Sports in preview to the west London showdown. “We started one month ago and analysed this team.
“We are speaking about one of the best teams in the world. We have to try to have the perfect game and to try to make the best decisions for this type of team.
“This is a different opponent. They have a fantastic characteristic with the ball, but they can have a weakness without the ball and we must try to exploit this.”
Barcelona ace Lionel Messi has failed to find the back of the net in any of his previous meetings with Chelsea – his worst record against any club during his success littered career – and Conte is hopeful that the Argentine’s troubles continue on Tuesday, although knows it will be an arduous task for his players.
“I hope that we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player”, he added.
“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge.
“It won’t be easy because we know very well this player. We are talking about one of the best players in the world.
“But we for sure will work together, work with the team, but not just to try to stop him. If we focus on just man-marking Messi, it can be very dangerous.”