Chelsea v Barcelona: Combined XI for UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Chelsea will welcome old foes Barcelona to the Stamford Bridge this week hoping to defeat the La Liga leaders before the 2nd-leg at Camp Nou. The Catalonia club have been rampant domestically and have a massive 7 point advantage at the top of the table. With the league title all but assured, Ernesto Valverde‘s team will be looking to go all the way in Europe’s elite competition, a tournament they last won in 2015.

Barcelona are one of the only 4 teams that are yet to be beaten in this year’s competition and they will be looking towards the usual suspects, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho to take them over the line once again. However, Chelsea might be only team in the world has dominated Barcelona over the past few years. In the last 5 meetings between the two teams, the Blues have won 2 matches and drawn the other 3.

Here, we look at the combined XI from both the teams for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 clash, featuring some the world’s best footballers.

Goalkeeper – Thibaut Courtois

The number 1 Belgian keeper, Thibaut Courtois was in phenomenal form in Chelsea’s title-winning 2016-2017 season and he has managed to keep the good run going with 13 cleans sheets already this season, just 2 less than the leader David de Gea. Courtois was key figure for Atletico Madrid in the 2013/2014 season, which saw Barcelona losing out on the title on the final day. He has a tough competiton from Ter-Stegen, however, the 25-year-old just edges the German keeper based on his recent performances.

Defense – César Azpilicueta, Gerard Pique, Samuel Umtiti and Jordi Alba

There are quite a few defenders from the two team who could easily find a place in the UEFA Champions League (UCL) Round of 16 combined XI. However, we have tried to put together the best quartet of defenders which we think will be toughest to penetrate. Leader and amongst the best centre-backs in the world, Gerard Pique is probably the second man on Barcelona’s team-sheet after Lionel Messi. He will be partnered by French international Samuel Umtiti. Both these centre-backs have been the main reason behind the Catalunya club conceding just 11 goals this season in the league, just 2 more than Atletico Madrid.

The centre-back pairing of Pique and Umtiti will have a familiar face in Jordi Alba flanking them from the left-hand side. Currently rated by many as the best left-back in the World, Alba’s is a total menace for the opposition, who not only have to deal with him while attacking but have to also be wary about his attacking threat. The right-back spot is something that is a fairly easy choice given how brilliant Azpilicueta has been for Chelsea for the past few seasons. Probably the only player in the Chelsea team who produces a 8 out of 10 performance week in week out.

Midfielders – N’Golo Kanté, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas 

A combined consisting of Barcelona players will always be an attacking force to reckon with, hence we have decided to go with a cautious approach in the midfield and keep two central-midfielders for the UEFA Champions League (UCL) Round of 16 clash. Never too hungry for the spotlight, Busquets is one of the most key players in the Barcelona squad, it is his defensive awareness and calmness on the ball that makes him such valuable member of this team. Unlike his Barcelona team, Busquets will have the company of another world-class central-midfielder, former Leicester City man N’Golo Kante, for the UCL Round of 16 clash.

The French midfielder is highly rated not only in Europe but across the world. He had a rare honour of winning the Premier League title with 2 different teams in 2 consecutive seasons following his move to Chelsea in 2016.

With the defensive side of the team all sorted out, it’s time for us to bring in the big guns. The number 10 spot would usually go to Barcelona’s record signing Philippe Coutinho, however, with him being ineligible for UEFA Champions League (UCL), we have decided to include Spanish international Cesc Fabregas. The former Arsenal captain might not make the starting XI regularly under Antonio Conte, but there is no doubt that he is amongst the most creative midfielders in the Premier League, who has the ability to pick those deadly passes at will.

Attackers – Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Eden Hazard

Oh this is a front three that would make to the forward line of the combined XI of any team in the world. Lionel Messi, the best player to have played the game will be on the left-wing {of the UEFA Champions League (UCL) Round of 16 combined XI} from where he has tormented the world’s best defenders on a regular basis. His control and skill over a football is unmatched in the world and given his record in the current season, it will be not surprising to see him win his 6th Ballon d’Or at the end of the year.

Chelsea have two quality strikers in their squad in the form of Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud, however, the number 9 spot will go current La Liga season’s second highest goal-scorer Luis Suarez. The Uruguyuan has been lethal this season and it won’t be surprising to see him getting on the scoresheet in the 1st leg in Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s most destructive player and a future Ballon d’Or winners as predicted by many experts, Eden Hazard will occupy the right-wing spot from where he produced moments magic on regular basis. He will be the biggest threat from Chelsea’s side over the two-legs of the round of 16 matches. If Barcelona can manage to keep him quiet, victory will be all but assured.