All eyes will tonight be on Chelsea star Cesc Fabregas (pictured, file) when the Blues faces his boyhood club and Spanish giants Barcelona in the Round of 16 Champions League first leg fixture at Stamford Bridge.
Our sports desk takes a look at the interesting facts that make tonight’s clash a crucial one.
This fixture has for long attracted controversy with referee’s decisions. The most memorable is the 2009 semifinal second leg where Tom Obvrebo admitted in an interview with the media that it was a poor night for him, denying Chelsea over four penalties.
The referee appointed for this fixture is Turkish Cuneyt Cakir. He once officiated this fixture in 2012 where Chelsea knocked out Barcelona on the 2-3 goal aggregate on their way to the famous Munich victory.
Cakir is remembered for sending off John Terry for his challenge on the then Arsenal and now Manchester United star Alexis Sanchez and also awarding Barcelona a penalty which Messi missed by hitting the cross bar.
Coincidentally, Cuneyt Curtis has officiated five more fixtures involving Barcelona and in all those matches, Barcelona has never lost nor failed to score a goal.
Barcelona vs Rubin kuzan: 1-1 (2010-2012)
Barcelona vs Benfica: 2-0 (2012-2013)
Barcelona vs Arsenal: 2-0 (2014-2015)
Barcelona vs Juventus: 3-1 (2014-2015)
Barcelona vs Roma: 6-1(2015-2016)
2. Unlucky Messi against Chelsea
Arguably one of the best players in the world, Lionel Messi has never scored against Chelsea in 653 minutes that both teams have met. This fixture has been on of his nightmares as Chelsea is the only club in Europe that he has faced many times but failed to score.
The five times balloon d’Or winner has played against Chelsea in 8 matches where he recorded 29 shots but 0 goals, including the penalty he missed during the 2012 clash.
But putting that history aside, will Messi finally defy the odds in the 180+ minutes that he may play against Antonio Conte’s side and find the net this time?
Chelsea has faced Barcelona 15 times and none of the teams boasts of any upper hand in those fixtures.
Chelsea have won 5 matches, Barcelona has won 5 and drawn 5 times.
The last time Barcelona beat Chelsea at their home was in 2006 when they won 2-1. The latter fixtures have been ending in favour of Chelsea or draws.
There have been 45 goals scored in these clashes, averaging to 3 goals per game. Barcelona have scored 25 goals to Chelsea’s 20.
Haunt by former players
The bitter taste for former players haunting their clubs has been common in football and it may also happen in this fixture.
Two of the players who were in the 2009 semifinal squad that faced Chelsea will now be playing against their former team.
The match will kickoff at 2245Hrs (EAT).
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