Ernesto Valverde will be without the ineligible Philippe Coutinho and the suspended Nelson Semedo as Barcelona face Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League.
Barcelona will be looking to gain important away goal(s) or perhaps, take home some sort of an advantage from the first leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie against Chelsea. The Blaugrana will look to defy their woeful record at Stamford Bridge. But, their task will be made harder by the absence of Philippe Coutinho and Nelson Semedo.
While the former is ineligible to represent Barcelona, having already played in the current season of the Champions League for Liverpool, Semedo has accrued a suspension and will thus, miss out on the Tuesday fixture.
Going into the game, Marc-Andre ter Stegen should assume his position between the posts, while Semedo’s suspension all but guarantees a start at right-back for Sergi Roberto. Gerard Pique returned to the starting lineup against Eibar and is likely to be Samuel Umtiti’s partner in central defence, with Yerry Mina taking his spot on the bench.
Jordi Alba has been Valverde’s preference in important matches and the Spaniard is likely to start on the left side of the back four for Tuesday, ahead of Lucas Digne. In midfield, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets should start, with Ivan Rakitic likely to be the one chosen as the third man.
Up ahead in attack, Coutinho’s unavailability means Ousmane Dembele should start in attack alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The Argentine will be looking to break a somewhat surprising duck so far against Chelsea in 8 competitive games.
Ahead of the tie, which has been billed as a battle between two managers rather than the players, Ernesto Valverde was full of praise for his adversary, highlighting Antonio Conte’s successes with Chelsea and Juventus, while also stating that the Tuesday fixture will be a tough one for Barcelona.
“He [Conte] is one of the best coaches in the world with an extraordinary CV, not just with Chelsea but also with Juventus and the Italian national side. His teams are always hard working and they knew what they have to do. For me it’s a great challenge to come up against one of his sides.”
The match will be an interesting one for the neutrals, with Lionel Messi’s unenviable record while facing Chelsea being pitted against the home side’s recent struggles.