CL: Antonio Conte's trial by fire as Chelsea face Barcelona

Mar 14, 2018, 10:53 IST | AFP

Chelsea boss' tendency to put caution ahead of results will be tested during his team's crucial Champions League Last-16 clash against Barca tonight

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte relays instructions during the Champions League Last-16 tie against Barcelona last month. Pic/Getty Images
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte relays instructions during the Champions League Last-16 tie against Barcelona last month. Pic/Getty Images

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte faces a conundrum of balancing his tendency for caution with the English champions' need to score to get past the might of Barcelona in the Champions League Last-16 tonight.

Conte's plan to contain and counter-attack on the La Liga leaders nearly worked to perfection in the first leg as Willian put the hosts in front.
But one Andreas Christensen error cost Conte's men dear as Barca pounced for a vital away goal when Lionel Messi finally scored against Chelsea at the ninth attempt and give Barca a 1-1 draw.

However, whilst Willian shone in Conte's strikerless set-up, Eden Hazard was unable to exert the influence he desires on the biggest stage in an unfamiliar centre-forward role. "We need to repeat the game we played at Stamford Bridge and to try to exploit the chances to score," Conte told Chelsea TV, hinting that he will opt for a similar approach at the Camp Nou.

"It's important to understand that we must be prepared to suffer, if we play with Hazard as striker, or if we play with (Olivier) Giroud or (Alvaro) Morata as number nine and Hazard as number 10."

Hazard suffered when deployed once more in a central role as Chelsea were passed off by Manchester City in a 1-0 defeat nine days ago. "When you leave the pitch you have the impression that you've ran [a lot], but that you haven't played a game of football," said Hazard as City recorded a EPL record 902 passes and Chelsea failed to muster a single shot on goal.

"We could have played on for three hours, and I wouldn't touch a ball. For me it's difficult to play a good game when you only touch the ball three times."

19 No. of wins Barcelona have registered against an English opponent at home in 32 games

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