If the Champions League encounter between Chelsea and Barcelona were to be played now, the Blaugrana would have the upper hand as they are enjoying a fantastic run of form whilst the Blues are immersed in a crisis that could culminate in the dismissal of their manager in the coming days.
The inequalities between one team and the other, at this stage of the season, are obvious, and here are some good reasons to believe in a Barça success.
In Barcelona it is almost time for wine and roses, while at Stamford Bridge the atmosphere gets worse every week, to the point that the position of Antonio Conte is almost untenable.
Bookmakers in England are already giving odds for his possible replacement, former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique being the best placed in the forecasts.
Ernesto Valverde, on the other hand, only accumulates praise, and his position is so strong that it allows him to rotate untouchables like Luis Suarez and Messi without anyone daring to question decisions that would have generated huge controversy at other times.
Valverde’s Barcelona are also more solid than ever defensively.
The high pressure and the great individual moments of defensive bastions like Umtiti and Ter Stegen make the Blaugrana as safe as a team could be, and like few others in world football at this time.
Chelsea’s back line, until not long ago one of the greatest weapons of Conte’s team, has collapsed in the last few weeks.
The west London side have conceded seven goals in the last two games and await with concern the definitive diagnosis on Andreas Christensen who has been Chelsea’s best defender but could miss the matches due to injury.
To this day, the doubts surrounding Chelsea’s attack multiply.
Alvaro Morata still doesn’t know if he will be able to play in the European duel. His back problems are keeping the supporters and Olivier Giroud in suspense, the Frenchman being his most recently acquired alternative.
Only Eden Hazard seems to guarantee a good performance.
For Barcelona, Messi and Suarez are enjoying a record season in terms of scoring efficiency.
The stats of Chelsea and Barcelona’s strikers
Leo Messi: 27 goals in 34 games
Luis Suarez: 19 goals in 31 games
Alvaro Morata: 12 goals in 31 matches
Eden Hazard: 13 goals in 35 games
The Barcelona players seem united and don’t doubt Valverde’s decisions, which has helped to keep almost all of the squad singing from the same hymn sheet.
He has also integrated players such as Vermaelen, Andre Gomes, Aleix Vidal and Paco Alcacer who seemed to be on the fringes of the first team.
All have had more minutes than expected and confirm the depth of a united team.
In London, the player performances suggest that they are no longer in tandem with Conte’s decisions, with feelers emanating from the club suggesting that the players are in doubt as to whether he continues to be the right man for the job.
In the Champions League this season, Barcelona qualified from the first phase as group winners, without losing a single game and conceding just once in 6 matches.
Chelsea finished the group stage as runners-up and never clearly imposed themselves on their two main rivals for a place in the knockout stages.
Atletico drew in London, as did AS Roma.
We have seen bigger upsets in world football but the comparison between both teams right now is like night and day and in a game that seemed evenly matched when the draws were made late 2017, obvious inequalities mean one of both sides is a clear favourite over both legs.