UEFA Champions League Picks: Chelsea - Barcelona
UEFA Champions League returns with a midweek fixture from London, where Chelsea hosts Spanish behemoths Barcelona on Tuesday evening. The second leg, played in Barcelona takes place March 14th.
Chelsea has seen better days in their domestic competition, Premier League. The reigning champions currently sit fourth, already 19 points behind the leaders Manchester City and Antonio Conte’s seat seems to be shaking already – only nine months after securing the title. Chelsea’s record from the past games is not flattering, with losses to Bournemouth and Watford still hurting despite expected 3-0 win over WBA the previous weekend and 4-0 victory in FA Cup over Hull this weekend. Tuesday’s opposition is, however, on a completely different level and poses another big threat for Conte and his troops.
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Barcelona has had a season no one was expecting and silenced their doubters in a convincing manner. They’ve taken the lead in La Liga by going unbeaten for 24 games now, with a confident 7-point lead on top, with Atletico Madrid chasing and Real Madrid already 17 points behind. As of late they’ve dropped points to both Getafe and Espanyol, so it’s not just a walk in the park domestically either.
In Champions League Chelsea came through with 11 points from six games, winning three, drawing two and losing once. At home they drew with Atletico Madrid 1-1 and AS Roma 3-3, while beating the walkover Qarabag 6-0. Chelsea scored 16 goals in the group stage, but removing Qarabag from the equation it doesn’t look too pretty: 6 goals for and 8 against. Funnily enough, they’ve also gotten rid of 2nd best goalscorer with two goals, Michy Batshuayi, while Eden Hazard leads the team with three. The replacement forward from Arsenal, Oliver Giroud is available, although unlikely to fit in Conte’s starting XI.
Barcelona completed the group stage with flying colors, winning their group with 14 points ahead of Juventus with 11. Barca won four and drew twice, on the road against Juventus and Olympiakos. Interestingly enough, they scored only once in those three road games, when beating Sporting 0-1. At home they went 3-0-0 with 8:1 goal ratio. Leo Messi leads the team in scoring and is looking for support at this stage, with Luis Suarez being shut down for the most part of the group stage. New acquisition Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for UCL after featuring with Liverpool earlier in the season.
Injuries/suspensions: Chelsea – David Luiz (out), Barcelona – Philippe Coutinho (ineligible)
Probable lineups in Accuscore simulations courtesy of Rotowire
In Accuscore’s simulations Barcelona is clear favorite to take the win at Stamford Bridge. Despite their very conservative results on the road, the statistical advantage over Chelsea is overwhelming. In a low scoring game the likelihood of a draw is 29.3%, some 2% more than the odds would indicate. Barcelona takes the advantage by winning on the road with 50.6%, indicating a slight value compared to odds around 48%. Chelsea only wins 20.1% of the simulations at home.
Neither team has played very high scoring games this year in the Champions League. In simulations, the score remains low as well: Barcelona hits the net on average 1.44 times, while the hosts Chelsea are stuck with 0.77 goals on average. Only Barcelona’s Leo Messi is more likely to score than not, with approximately 54.5% likelihood to add to his goal total. Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata leads his team in scoring percentage, but the probability is as low as 26.5%.Have a look at Accuscore's analysis on the UEFA Champions League 2017/2018 1st Knockout round overall here!
Chelsea’s struggles domestically are likely to somewhat reflect to Champions League as well and Barcelona’s excellent form makes it a tough game for Antonio Conte’s men. While the first leg is always tricky, it’s more likely that Barcelona will run away as victors from this one.
Barcelona to win: +120 | 2.20 (45.45%) - Accuscore odds -102 | 1.98 (50.6%)
Draw: +260 | 3.60 (27.78%) - Accuscore odds +241 | 3.41 (29.73%)
Total Under 2.5 goals: +108 | 2.08 (48.08%) – Accuscore odds -181 | 1.55 (64.52%)
Leo Messi – Accuscore odds -119 | 1.84 (54.5%)
Luis Suarez, Alvaro Morata – Accuscore odds +278 | 3.78 (26.5%)