Champions League action returns on Tuesday, with Barcelona making their first trip to Stamford Bridge to play Chelsea since 2012. These teams have met seven times in Champions League play, the fifth-most played fixture in the history of the competition.
Chelsea won the last meeting in 2012, en route to their first and only Champions League title. But the teams are far from level on this one, with Chelsea sliding and Barcelona cruising atop La Liga.
Despite the historical success, Chelsea are the home underdog on Tuesday. Betting site 5Dimes has Barcelona as a half-goal favorite, with the Catalans also looking at -335 odds to advance to the next round.
It’s been a complete turnaround for Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona, who have lost just one game this season across all competitions. The departure of Neymar caused lots of shifting, most notably changing to two attacking players up top, and more playing time for Jordi Alba. But Valverde’s greatest accomplishment is on defense, where Barca look drastically improved over last season.
Since the opening day of the league, Barcelona have dominated the second half against their opponents, outscoring them 61-7.
If Chelsea were going to make a run at Barcelona, their best chance would be at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are actually unbeaten in seven straight games against Barcelona, with their last loss coming in 2006.
If you’re looking for patterns, there haven’t been a ton of goals in this series. The highest-scoring game was 2-2, but Chelsea have actually only won two meetings during the unbeaten run.
Barcelona has struggled against the Blues, but nobody moreso than Lionel Messi. The Argentine has never scored against Chelsea in Champions League play. That’s 655 minutes of goalless action, his longest scoreless streak against any single team. Messi has only three goals in six Champions League appearances this season.
Phillipe Coutinho played Champions League for Liverpool earlier this season, so he is cup-tied and ineligible for this match.
The location will aid the Blues, but there’s no stopping Barcelona this year. The difference is on defense and playstyle, as Valverde has raised the level of team football since taking over the club. Barcelona are a more complete team this season, and they’re a good bet to right the ship in this rivalry.