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Dublin: 0 °C Sunday 18 March, 2018


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LIVERPOOL, MANCHESTER CITY and Tottenham did their chances of qualifying for the quarter finals of the Champions League no harm a week ago, and tonight it’s the turn of another Premier League club — 2012 winners Chelsea.

However, Antonio Conte’s side have it all to do if they are to send Barcelona packing. These clubs last met six years ago, when the Blues got the better of the Catalan giants — 3-2 on aggregate over two legs — on their way to victory in the tournament under Roberto Di Matteo.

And here are five classic European ties between Chelsea and Barca.

Conte has made a big call by going with Eden Hazard as a ‘false nine’, while leaving Spanish striker Alvaro Morata and January signing Olivier Giroud on the bench. The Belgian will be flanked by former Barca man Pedro and Brazilian schemer Willian.

The visitors, meanwhile, are unchanged from the side that defeated Eibar last weekend. Former Liverpool attacker Philippe Coutinho is ineligible but French forward Ousmane Dembele — a €105 million summer signing from Borussia Dortmund — is among the substitutes.


Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.


Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Paulinho; Suarez, Messi.

By the way, in the night’s other Champions League knockout tie, this season’s surprise package Besiktas are at the Allianz Arena to take on Bayern Munich. We’ll also keep you up-to-date on how that one is going throughout the night.

If Hazard wants to one day be mentioned in the same breath as the game’s greats, these are the nights he has to perform at his highest level.

Give me your predictions, please… What way will tonight’s first leg go?

Poll Results:

The two teams are lined up in the tunnel and we’re not too far away now.

Flag 1Mins

Kick-off - Turkish referee Cüneyt Çakır blows his whistle and we’re underway. Chelsea are in their traditional home kit, while Barca are wearing a red change strip.


An early chance for Chelsea as Hazard blazes a shot over from 25 yards out.


Alba fouls Willian and Chelsea have a free-kick in a dangerous area but it’s easily cleared by the first man.


More action down Barcelona’s end. Willian’s corner is met by the head of Rudiger, but the German defender can’t direct it on target.


We’re just had some patient build-up from Barcelona in Chelsea’s half. Iniesta attempts to find the run of Suarez but it’s cut out by Azpilicueta.


Hazard receives the ball out wide on the left and drifts past a couple of red shirts before attempting to pick out a team-mate. Iniesta looks to play it out of defence and Kante is penalised for hand ball, so it’s Barcelona’s free-kick.


Iniesta and Messi combine and the latter crosses for Paulinho. The midfielder gets a free header, but he can only send it a few yards wide of Courtois’ post.


Unlucky from Barca. Messi picks out Iniesta with a crisp pass and the captain looks for a one-two. It’s slightly ahead of the Argentine magician, however, and the chance goes begging.


Willian storms forward after some nice footwork and Rakitic blatantly trips him to concede a foul 30 yards out from goal. The Croatian is deservedly handed the first booking of the night.


Alonso gets the resulting free-kick up and over the wall, but Ter Stegen makes a routine save.


Off the post! Willian cracks a brilliant effort off the upright with Ter Stegen beaten. That’s the closest we’ve come so far.


Pique gets his head on a corner, sending it wide, and the centre-half is complaining that Rudiger had a hold of him. Mr Çakır isn’t having any of it, though.


And now it’s the other post! Chelsea have hit the woodwork again, and it’s that man Wilian for a second time.


GOAL! In Bavaria, Thomas Mueller has put Bayern Munich 1-0 up after 43 minutes. Besiktas are down to 10 men as well as Domagoj Vida received a straight red after just 16 minutes player.


Hazard volleys over from a central position. Chelsea will be happy with how this first half has gone.

Flag 46Mins

Half-time: Chelsea 0-0 Barcelona

Chelsea v Barcelona - UEFA Champions League - Round of Sixteen - First Leg - Stamford Bridge Conte (right) gestures as Valverde (left) looks on. Source: Adam Davy

Flag 46Mins

Second half – And we’re back. No substitutes to report at the break either.


Iniesta skips past Moses and lines up the shot with his left foot, but it’s lacking accuracy and sails harmlessly into the crowd.


Suarez has been relatively quiet tonight but he just came alive. The ex-Liverpool striker knocks the ball past Azpilicueta and aims for the far corner. Courtois gets down well to touch it away, however.


GOAL! Bayern Munich have 2-0 up on Besiktas through Kingsley Coman after 53 minutes. They’re cruising at the moment.

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GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Barcelona (Willian) 

The Blues are ahead! It’s third time lucky for Willian, who has already hit the post twice tonight.

Making room for himself 20 yards out, the former Shakhtar Donetsk playmaker drills a strike into the bottom corner. He deserved that.


GOAL! Bayern have a third as Mueller gets his brace. The Bundesliga champions appear to be on their way to the quarter-finals.

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GOAL! Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona (Lionel Messi) 

Suarez isn’t happy with a challenge from Rudiger in the box but play continues and Christensen sends a terrible ball across his own box.

Iniesta pounces and tees up Messi, who finishes clinically.


Chelsea substitution – One Spanish international for another as ex-Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata replaces former Barca man Pedro.


Another change – Conte has also taken off Fabregas for Danny Drinkwater to give his side more legs.


GOALS! Robert Lewandowski gets in on the act with a late double to put Bayern 5-0 up on Besiktas. That tie is well and truly over.


Just three minutes of time added on to play…


Late Barca change – Iniesta makes way for Andre Gomes.

Flag 90Mins

Full-time: Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona 

It’s all over, we’re delicately poised for the return leg.


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