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Chelsea Are Down But Not Out After Champions League First Leg Draw

Lionel Messi broke his duck against Chelsea in Tuesday’s Champions League round of 16 encounter as Barcelona earned a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge. 

As the home side continued to play the Spaniards off the park, a schoolboy error from the young Dane, Christensen, allowed Andres Iniesta to pick out Lionel Messi who scored his 98th Champions League goal. 

Despite being outplayed and giving a rather lackluster performance, Barcelona head to the Nou Camp with a rather undeserved lead. In the unlikely event that the Catalonians draw the 2nd leg 0-0, they will be granted progression to the quarter-finals.

With so many pundits looking forward to the battle between Eden Hazard and Lionel Messi, it was the Brazilian international, Willian, who stole the show. Having scored twice in last Friday’s FA Cup win over Hull City, Willian continued to build on his good run of form. He continuously ran at Barcelona defenders and despite being twice denied by the upright, his persistence saw him clinch a well deserved goal.

The winger revealed in an interview this week that he dreams of playing for either Real Madrid or Barcelona. Surely he has done enough tonight to earn a summer move if the clubs and player can reach an agreement.

Conte’s decision to leave both Morata and Giroud on the bench has aroused much controversy. Chelsea struggled on the kick outs due to Barcelona’s excellent pressing forcing Courtois to go long. The front three of Pedro, Willian and Hazard are not exactly the biggest of men and poised little or no aerial threat throughout the game.

In the second leg, Chelsea will have to score. The inclusion of either Giroud or Morata would definitely give the West Londoners another potential goal source. At times the pensioners were unable to play balls into the opposing box as they had little or nothing to hit at.

Defensively, Conte provided a master class on how to keep Messi and Suarez quiet. An unfortunate error of judgement from the 21 year old Christensen, has granted the favourites even more bragging rights ahead of the decider in March.

With the Italian already under pressure from the Chelsea board, his brave and in my opinion, correct decision to incorporate the youngster into his starting eleven could actually cost him his job.

With the possibility of a top 4 finish not certain as well as the up hill task of turning this tie around, the academy graduate’s error could cost the man who has given him his first big break in football.

On the contrary, Barcelona have never scored more than two goals against the Blues. If Conte’s men can keep that record in tact, two goals of their own in Spain would send them into the Champions League last eight.

The Premier League’s fourth placed side can take a lot of confidence from this performance and have come from more difficult situations in the past. Back in 2006, they lost the first leg 2-1 before fighting back to win 4-2 in the return leg against the same side. They also came from 3-1 down against PSG before winning the return leg 2-0 and progressing on away goals.

Chelsea fans should take a lot of positives from tonight’s display.

Luke Gannon, Pundit Arena

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