Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has told his team to remain positive, ahead of a date with Barcelona in the Champions League knockouts.
Chelsea drew Barcelona in the Champions League round of 16 today, after having finished 2nd in Group C to Roma. Their possible opponents included French giants Paris-Saint Germain, Turkish champions Besiktas and Barcelona.
Chelsea now have to face Barcelona, after slumping to a 2nd place finish in Group C
Conte hoped that they would avoid Lionel Messi’s men in the first knockout round, but insisted they must hope they can beat the La Liga leaders.
“It’s a draw. Our reaction must be positive”, said Conte, speaking ahead of Chelsea’s away game against Huddersfield on Tuesday night.
“When you are in this stage you must be ready to face every team. In this case we must be ready to face Barcelona.
“When you play against Barcelona you must put 120 per cent at home and away if you want to hope to go to the next round.”
When the iconic 2012 semi-final between the two sides was brought up, where Ramires and Fernando Torres netted to take Chelsea past Barcelona en route to their first Champions League victory, the Italian remained steadfast. “The past is the past. Now it’s the present, another story. It’s totally different,” he said.
The tie is scheduled for February 20 – at Stamford Bridge, and Nou Camp, on March 14.
His immediate priorities will lie against beating the Terriers on Tuesday night. After a defeat to West Ham, Chelsea now sit 14 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Author’s Take –
Conte’s men will certainly have a tough job against Barcelona, who are currently unbeaten in La Liga, and topped their Champions League group containing last season’s runners-up Juventus, with ease.
Although nothing is impossible in football, Chelsea will need to snap out of their bad form and be at the top of their game come February 20 to even have a chance against an in-form Messi and his cohort.