Barcelona vs. Chelsea: Do the Blues Stand a Chance?
Chelsea (+739) travel to Barcelona (-228) on Wednesday (3:45 p.m. ET) needing to score a goal to advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
A late error in the first leg of the matchup gifted Lionel Messi (pictured above) a goal and changed the entire complexion of the Round of 16 showdown. A 1-0 win for Chelsea would have meant that this week’s game would have played to their defensive strengths. Now, after the sides tied 1-1 in that Feb. 20 game, they’ll need to figure out a path to an away victory (or a draw while scoring more than two goals).
The problem for Chelsea is that their attack isn’t very robust. Their 52 goals rank sixth in the EPL this season, and even that total is somewhat beyond their 48 expected goals. That overperformance is almost all due to superstar attacker Eden Hazard, who has 11 goals from just under seven expected goals (or, excluding penalties, nine goals from just over five expected goals).
When facing strong opponents, Chelsea like to set up their very rigidly structured defense, let the other team have the ball and hope that their talented attackers can beat the odds and make something happen — even if they are consistently outnumbered. That strategy almost worked in the first leg. Chelsea took the lead thanks to a long-distance shot by Willian from a designed set play, his third dangerous long-distance effort of the game.