Barcelona can bury ghosts of 2012 against Chelsea

Grit and determination were characteristics that epitomised Chelsea’s run to Champions League glory in 2012 and never was that tenacity more apparent than against Barcelona at Camp Nou.

Against a Blaugrana side overflowing with talent Chelsea fell 2-0 down and lost John Terry to a red card in the space of nine minutes at the back end of a memorable first half. Few gave them a chance from that moment onwards.

FC Barcelona v FC Chelsea - UEFA Champions League Semi Final
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

But, showing that football is a game where anything can happen, the team from Stamford Bridge overcame the odds that night and upset their more fancied rivals in what can only be described as a triumph against adversity in a display of courage and resolve that will be remembered for many years to come.

Fast-forward almost six years and we see these two powerhouses of European football once again matched in the knockout stages of the Champions League. It’s a matchup that presents the Catalan outfit with an opportunity to finally bury those ghosts of 2012.

The Blaugrana have gone from strength to strength this season, they’re unbeaten in La Liga and through to the Copa del Rey final but scaling the Everest-like heights to the pinnacle of European football is what this team covets. The Champions League trophy is the ultimate goal.

Juventus v FC Barcelona  - UEFA Champions League Final
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Reaching the top of the mountain has its risks though. It only takes one wrong step to fall and a loss to Chelsea would easily be enough to derail what could go down as one of the best ever seasons in the proud history of Barcelona.

Gerard Piqué recently commented on the upcoming tie against Chelsea and how losing could be disastrous for the team. One gets the feeling there’s little complacency this time around.

“Expectations are maximum. We go out as favourites, with a chance to win. I know the atmosphere is positive, very favourable, everything looks good, but I think we have to be more prudent,” Pique said.

”We have to learn from experience, what has happened in recent years and know that one bad day could see you knocked out of the Champions League.

”A bad result against Chelsea could turn the good season we are having into one that’s not so good.

”We know where we are, in La Liga and in the cup we’re in a good position, and now we have to do it in the Champions League.

”That’s why we will play Chelsea with the aim of getting a good result, to try to win to take the first step in this tie.”

Source | Sport

Piqué was there on that fateful night at the Camp Nou in 2012. He saw first hand the resolve that Chelsea displayed and endured the pain of such a loss. The past can never be changed but the pain of that night can be lessened with a victory this time around. The ghosts of 2012 demand it.

Munir making the difference at Alaves

Munir was on target again for Alaves on Saturday as Abelardo Fernandez’s side continued their brilliant form with a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna.

The goal was Munir’s sixth La Liga strike of the season, and he’s also produced five assists, which is a massive contribution to the cause.

It was a pretty special goal too as he picked the ball up just outside the box and took a couple of touches before firing into the top corner.

The 22-year-old is on a season-long loan with Alaves but looks to be finally enjoying his football again, long may it continue.

Eibar 0-2 Barça: Player Ratings

The scores from Saturday’s win.

Marc-André ter Stegen

Made some good saves in the opening stages when Eibar was troubling. In the second half, he had less of an impact but responded when called upon.

You say: 8

Sam says: 8


Sergi Roberto

With Alba so high up the pitch, it was important Roberto stayed back and he did this job well.

You say: 7

Sam says: 7


Samuel Umtiti

Kept the Eibar attackers away from the goal for the majority of the game. Made the second and the most tackles and the most interceptions of any Barça player.

You say: 8

Sam says: 8


Gerard Piqué

Did on occasion struggle with the pace of Eibar but his positional awareness prevented any real chances for the hosts who were mostly restricted to long shots.

You say: 8

Sam says: 7


Jordi Alba

A lot of Eibar’s early chances were coming down Alba’s left side and this was due to the full back pushing up very high. In an attacking sense, he was very good. Only Messi registered more shots than him and he secured the win late on.

You say: 8

Sam says: 8


Sergio Busquets

Enjoyed a good midfield battle with Pape Diop and produced an incredible seven tackles in the game.

You say: 7

Sam says: 7


Andrés Iniesta

Often had to drop in to fill for the absence created by Alba. Was more withdrawn in this game and therefore couldn’t have a big as influence as we are used to seeing.

You say: 7

Sam says: 6


Ivan Rakitić

Struggled to get going in an attacking sense but regularly dropped deep to defend when needed.

You say: 7

Sam says: 6


Paulinho

Pretty anonymous throughout the game aside from a tame header. His form is declining rapidly.

You say: 5

Sam says: 5


Luis Suárez

In a period where Eibar were looking to score, Luis Suárez got the goal that poured cold water on the home side. Producing a good run, he was picked out by Messi and then was calm enough to take it round the keeper and score. Horribly fluffed a chance in the early stages of the second period.

You say: 8

Sam says: 7


Lionel Messi

Routinely found the likes of Suárez and Alba to create chances. Was on occasion guilty of giving the ball away too easily.

You say: 8

Sam says: 8


Philippe Coutinho

Had a positive influence when he came on and provided a bit of much needed creativity. The highlight being a lovely dinked pass into the path of Messi.

You say: 8

Sam says: 8


Nélson Semedo

Only played a few minutes.

You say: 6

Sam says: N/A


Aleix Vidal

Played 17 minutes but was only seriously involved in one play.

You say: 7

Sam says: 6


Ernesto Valverde

Valverde was smart with the introduction of Coutinho at the right time as it pushed Barça’s energy levels up.

You say: 8

Sam says: 7


The Team

A fairly flat performance but it got the job done and now on to the next one.

You say: 7

Sam says: 7


MOTM

You say: Messi

Sam says: Messi


MOTMOTM

You say: Suárez

Sam says: Alba

Conte discusses how Chelsea will deal with Messi

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has been talking about his side’s Champions League clash with Barcelona, and in particular how his team will deal with Lionel Messi.

Messi has famously never scored against Chelsea in eight attempts, and Conte is hopeful that the Argentine will continue his drought against the Blues.

“I hope to continue this tradition but I repeat we are talking about a fantastic player and we must have great respect,” he said.

“But at the same time we must try to be excited to play this type of game and this challenge.

“We are talking about one of the best players in the world but, for sure, we have to work together, work with the team and not only with one player to try and stop him.

“Because I think that when we feel this type of challenge to man-mark [a player], Messi can become very dangerous.”

Source | The Guardian

Conte also said that his team must be “perfect” if they are to knock out Barcelona and they go into the game on the back of a 4-0 FA Cup win over Championship side Hull City.

FC Barcelona News: 18 February 2018

Eibar 0-2 Barça: Anything but easy | FC Barcelona
It’s wins like this that win league titles. Eibar are one of the most in-form sides in La Liga right now and for long stretches of this game had Barça against the ropes. But football is about taking your chances, and that’s what the blaugrana did to continue their 100% record against Eibar and ensure that they will stay at least seven points clear at the top of the league table (Atlético Madrid visit Bilbao on Sunday at 4.15pm CET).

Ernesto Valverde reflects on ‘difficult win’ at Ipurua | FC Barcelona
Following the 2-0 win at Eibar, Barça boss Ernesto Valverde provided some insight into why he felt the game has been so difficult and the kind of tactics he used to counter the Basque pressure. ”Eibar are on an incredible run and played top quality football” he said. “We struggled in the second half and couldn’t get into their area.”

Coutinho dropped for the good of Barcelona – Valverde | Goal
Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde said Philippe Coutinho was benched for the good of the team following Saturdays victory at Eibar. Despite being ineligible for Tuesday’s Champions League showdown with Chelsea following his arrival from fellow last-16 participants Liverpool, Coutinho was dropped for Barca’s 2-0 win.

Ernesto Valverde plays down talk of Andres Iniesta leaving for China | ESPN
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has said he will only talk about the possibility of Andres Iniesta moving to China when there’s an offer on the table. Diario Sport reported on Friday that Iniesta could walk away from Barca in “one of the biggest deals of the summer” after receiving an offer from Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian worth €35 million a season.

Highlights of Eibar 0-2 FC Barcelona at Ipurua | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona overcame a difficult test at one of the hardest places to visit these days in La Liga, Ipurua, home of Eibar, and came away with a 2-0 win. The first goal featured a tremendous assists from Leo Messi to Luis Suárez after 16 minutes, the Uruguayan rounding keeper Dmitrovic to tuck the ball home.

FC Barcelona extends unbeaten streak in La Liga to 31 games, ties all-time Club record | FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona equalled a historic feat on Saturday, stretching its La Liga undefeated run to 31-games, tying an all-time Club record that had stood for almost seven years. With a 2-0 win at Eibar on Saturday, Barça now stands just one game from setting a brand new record. Barça’s chance to break it will come at Camp Nou on Saturday, February 24, when they host fellow Catalan club, Girona. Kickoff is at 8.45pm CET.

Five talking points from Barca’s win over Eibar

Barcelona pass a tough test

Make no mistake this was a really, really tough game for Barca. Eibar came into the match in brilliant form and started the game quickly, forcing the visitors back.

It took a moment of brilliance from Lionel Messi to set up the opener and the sending off of Fabian Orellana helped, but to win 2-0 at Eibar is an excellent result.

Once again Barca were not at their brilliant best, but they had enough to dig out the win, keep yet another clean sheet and restore confidence after two La Liga draws.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Will Paulinho lose his place against Chelsea?

After a bright start to his Barcelona career, Paulinho has gone off the boil in recent weeks and Sunday was another muted showing.

It’s easy to predict most of Ernesto Valverde’s strongest starting lineup but there is a place in midfield up for grabs.

It won’t go to Philippe Coutinho against Chelsea, as he’s cup-tied, and it’s unlikely to go to Ousmane Dembele either as he didn’t even get off the bench against Eibar.

Which means it looks as if it’s between Paulinho, Andres Gomes, Aleix Vidal and Paco Alcacer as to who will start alongside Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta at Stamford Bridge.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Iniesta starting was a surprise

With Chelsea up next, a match Coutinho will sit out, most of us expected the Brazilian to start in midfield with the 33-year-old on the bench.

However, Valverde sent out Iniesta for his 19th La Liga outing of the season and he lasted 63 minutes before he was replaced by Coutinho.

One of the reasons Coutinho was brought in during January was supposedly to allow Iniesta to rest before the big games, something that didn’t really happen on Saturday.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Coutinho makes a difference

However, when Coutinho did arrive he did make a difference for Barcelona and had a hand in the second goal as he started the attack with a fine cross-field pass.

Coutinho looked far more comfortable out on the left and also set up a great chance for Messi which he surprisingly fired over the bar.

The Brazilian has not had perhaps the start to life at Barcelona that his transfer fee demands, but this was a really good showing from the 25-year-old.

Eibar v Barcelona - La Liga
Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Suarez looking sharp for Chelsea

It’s fair to say Luis Suarez has a bit of history with Chelsea, just ask Branislav Ivanovic, but he was on target again against Eibar with 17th La Liga goal of the season.

Interestingly, Suarez is yet to find the back of the net in the Champions League in this campaign but looks in great shape with 14 goals and five assists in his last 15 games.

Chelsea conceded eight goals in six games in the the group stages and Suarez might just fancy ending his European drought at Stamford Bridge.

Valverde hails ‘very important’ win for Barca

Ernesto Valverde said Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Eibar was “very important” as the team got back to winning ways in La Liga.

Barcelona went into the game on the back of draws against Getafe and Espanyol but took all three points to extend their lead at the top to 10 points.

Valverde admitted it had been a difficult test against a spirited Eibar side but was clearly delighted with the win.

“The victory today was very important for us after two consecutive draws. Everybody has problems here not just us.

“Atletico came here and they only won in the last few minutes and Eibar had plenty of chances in that game.

“They kept us in our half a lot, it was difficult to get over the pressure but when we did that we got in their area and scored.

“There were some difficult moments but that happens during the season. today we were able to overcome it.”

Source | FC Barcelona

Barcelona must now turn their attentions to the Champions League as they head to Chelsea on Tuesday for the first leg of their last 16 clash.

Busquets: We’ll go to Chelsea with confidence after Eibar win

Sergio Busquets said that Barcelona will go into Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Chelsea with confidence after beating Eibar 2-0 on Saturday.

It was a tough test for Barcelona with Eibar in good form and they only made the game safe late on when Jordi Alba made it 2-0.

Eibar were reduced to 10-men in the second half as Fabian Orellana saw red and Busquets admitted it had been a difficult afternoon.

“It’s true that we were a little uncomfortable during the game, but that’s the way Eibar set up,” he said.

”We knew that if we could overcome that first line of pressure, we would have chances. We didn’t have lots of possession, though, and it took a long time to kill the game off but we didn’t suffer too much, either.

”Now we go to Stamford Bridge with confidence, in terms of results the season has been very good. But what’s been done so far doesn’t mean anything, we know that it’s going to be really tough, that we have to be intelligent and that the tie lasts 180 minutes.”

Source | Sport

The win should give Barca confidence, particularly as it ended a run of two consecutive draws in La Liga. However, Ernesto Valverde also picked a really strong team which means players only have three days to recover before they are in action again.

Eibar made us suffer a lot, says Alba

Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba admitted Eibar made Ernesto Valverde’s side “suffer” as the visitors claimed a 2-0 win on Saturday.

Eibar came into the game in good form and put in a spirited showing as they forced Barcelona back.

However, Luis Suarez put Barcelona ahead and then Eibar were reduced to 10 men after Fabian Orellana was sent off for a second bookable offence.

Alba made the game safe late on but admitted it had been a tough test at Ipurua.

“Eibar are a very difficult team who know how to play and make it difficult for you,” he said.

“I am very happy with the goal and the win. It’s clear that we suffered a lot at the start of the match.”

“Mendilibar was defending his player and I’m not going to get involve. That’s the referee’s job. After the sending off we had more calm, although they still pushed a lot.”

Source | Sport

Barcelona may not have been at their best against Eibar, but it was still an impressive result at a really tough away ground and the unbeaten run continues.

Messi equals another record as he hits the woodwork yet again

Lionel Messi is no stranger to picking up records and he was at it yet again as he was denied by the woodwork against Eibar.

The Argentine looked set to make it 2-0 in the first half when he fired at goal from a tight angle but once again saw the ball hit the frame of the goal.

Opta show just how many times he has been denied by the woodwork already this season.

Despite that, Messi did finish the game with an assist which ensures he remains top of the charts in La Liga for both goals and assists.

He is, though, overdue a goal as Messi has not scored in any of his last five games, his last goal coming in the 2-1 win over Alaves.