Gerard Pique Likely To Start Against Chelsea In The Champions League
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde is likely to feature Gerard Pique from the off when the Catalan giants host Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16 second-leg. The Spain international has been playing with a knee problem over the past few weeks, and this saw him left on the bench during the recent draw versus Las Palmas in the Spanish La Liga.
There were initially doubts whether Pique could be sidelined for an extended period because of his problem, but according to Calciomercato, the Spaniard has been offered a rest via the substitutes’ bench in order to improve on his match fitness. Pique only played an hour of the 6-1 drubbing of neighbours Girona in the league last month, but he has since been replaced by Thomas Vermaelen in the starting line-up.
A lot of the press had thought Barcelona would dominate the game versus Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but their chances were pretty limited owing to a resolute defensive performance from the Blues. The west London side earned a well-deserved opened via the feet of Willian in the second period, but they spoilt their effort shortly after with from Andreas Christensen’s mistake allowing Lionel Messi to level the scores – with his maiden goal versus the Blues.
The Blues will go into the away-leg with good history behind them at the Camp Nou. Back in 2012, the Premier League holders progressed further in the Champions League via a late away goal from Fernando Torres, and they greatly need a similar influence this month, if they are to make continue in a competition, which could be critical to their manager’s future.
Antonio Conte’s position is currently being assessed by Chelsea’s hierarchy ahead of the summer, and the Italian may need to prove his credentials by guiding the club to a surprise away win over the Catalan giants on March 14.