Chelsea boss Antonio Conte keeping striking options open for Barcelona clash

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Antonio Conte has told his striking options to be ready to suffer when Chelsea go to Barcelona on Wednesday.

The Blues must score at the Nou Camp to progress at the expense of Lionel Messi and company after last month’s 1-1 first leg.

Eden Hazard was deployed as a ‘false nine’ in that game, but subsequently complained about the position following the lacklustre loss at Manchester City.

Yet Conte could still call upon the Belgium playmaker to fulfil that role on Wednesday, or opt for either Olivier Giroud or Alvaro Morata as a more conventional striker.

“It’s important to understand that we must be prepared to suffer, if we play with Hazard as number nine, or if we play with Giroud or Morata as number nine and Hazard as number 10,” Conte told Chelsea TV.

Conte says he will consult his players over the tactics for a pivotal contest and hopes for a repeat performance of the one at Stamford Bridge, albeit without a Barca goal.

“We need to repeat the game we played at Stamford Bridge and to try to exploit the chances to score,” the Italian added.

Chelsea beat Barcelona en route to winning the 2012 Champions League.

A remarkable performance at the Nou Camp saw the Blues draw 2-2 and earn a 3-2 aggregate victory to advance to the final of Europe’s premier club competition almost six years ago.

Gary Cahill of Chelsea

Defender Gary Cahill, who was injured in that game, said: “I didn’t spend too long out there last time with my hamstring that I pulled.

“But the result was fantastic and the rest is history. Let’s go there with confidence we can put in a good show and do the best we possibly can to get through to the next round.

“It’s poised nicely. We’ve got one game to try to go through against world-class opposition. We know it’s going to be tough, but we’re ready for the challenge.”

Chelsea travel after Saturday’s 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Crystal Palace, which followed four losses in five Premier League games.

Chelsea’s next Premier League game is against Tottenham, their rivals for a top-four place and Champions League qualification.

“We got ourselves in a sticky situation, in terms of previous results, and we need to get ourselves out of it,” Cahill added.

“That meant a win. It was all about the three points from the word go, however we got them.

“We could’ve clearly had three, four or five, even, with the chances we created. That’s positive and ultimately we won the game. That’s all that matters.”

James Tomkins

Palace were 2-0 down at half-time after Willian’s strike and a Martin Kelly own goal.

Defender James Tomkins, who cleared a Giroud effort off the line, bemoaned a strike from Alexander Sorloth which was disallowed late on by referee Anthony Taylor and came before Patrick van Aanholt netted what proved merely a consolation against his former club.

Tomkins said on cpfc.co.uk: “We were unlucky with the decision to disallow Alex’s goal.

“For me, not a chance it was a foul. The referee’s made that decision without a reaction from the Chelsea players, so it’s disappointing, but we have to go again.”

Palace are now without a win in seven games.

Tomkins added: “You can look at it and say we were unlucky, but it’s another defeat.

“We’ve taken the big teams close, right to the wire, but it’s still disappointing because a loss is a loss, whether you lose 5-0 or 1-0, we need points now.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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PSG charged by UEFA for crowd disturbances during Real Madrid clash

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Paris St Germain have been charged by UEFA following the crowd disturbances during their Champions League defeat to Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes.

Tuesday’s second leg of the last-32 tie, which PSG lost 2-1 to lose 5-2 on aggregate, was briefly halted at the start of the second half because of flares from the home fans.

UEFA has now announced four charges against the Ligue 1 leaders – the setting off of fireworks, the use of a laser pointer, insufficient organisation and blocked stairways.

UEFA said its control, ethics and disciplinary body would deal with the case on March 22.

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Champions League Team of the Week as Real Madrid and Juventus stars dominate XI

Alex Rea 8/03/2018
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Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo

Two ties this week added chapters to the volume of Champions League classics, two others were mere footnotes.

Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Juventus all sealed their spots in the last eight but did so in contrasting style.

Below we pick out our top performers from this week’s action as a weakened City were defeated 2-1 by FC Basel, Liverpool were held to a bore draw with Porto while Real Madrid humbled Paris Saint-Germain and Juve did what Juve does to beat Tottenham.

GK – IKER CASILLAS (FC PORTO)

Jurgen Klopp and Iker Casillas

Jurgen Klopp and Iker Casillas

Fitting that in what is likely his last Champions League appearance before retirement, Casillas became the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet against Liverpool in the competition this season.

The Spaniard has 56 in 167 Champions League games, both records, and made five saves in the 0-0 draw at Anfield.

RB – STEPHEN LICHTSTEINER (JUVENTUS)

Stephan Lichtsteiner

Stephan Lichtsteiner

Massimiliano Allegri’s substitutions were critical in turning the tie in Juve’s favour and Lichtsteiner’s performance from the bench was superb.

He not only stretched Spurs by providing natural width, but defensively the Swiss helped out a drowning Andrea Barzagli on the right. Not bad for his first appearance in the competition this season.

CB – GIORGIO CHIELLINI (JUVENTUS)

Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon

Giorgio Chiellini and Gianluigi Buffon

Juve’s diamond attackers Paulo Dybala and Higuain stole the headlines but it was their rock at the back who warrants most praise.

Gigi Buffon and Chiellini celebrating crucial interventions as if they were goals will be the undying images of the Bianconeri’s win.

The 33-year-old defender was immense. No player made more tackles (4), more clearances (13) or blocked more shots (3) than the Italian. What a warrior.

CB – SERGIO RAMOS (REAL MADRID)

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos

If critics of Ramos still don’t think he can defend, then they should re-watch the tie in Paris because he produced an absolute masterclass.

Granted, his temperament can get the better of him at times – he did surpass Paul Scholes for most bookings in the competition with his 37th – but the Spaniard completely nullified PSG’s attack in the final phases.

He was a tower of strength, winning so many physical duels and emboldening his reputation as a big-game phenom.

LB – MARCELO (REAL MADRID)

Thiago Silva and Marcelo

Thiago Silva and Marcelo

The problem with Madrid is that practically every player has an attacking mindset. Take Marcelo for example. The Brazilian is a left-back but his positioning is so high up he’s really virtually a winger.

It can leave Los Blancos painfully open and Spurs ruthlessly exposed that susceptibility in the group stages but against PSG, Marcelo perfectly balanced both responsibilities.

He didn’t always bomb on which shut down the Parisians so effectively and picked his moments to attack, hitting six threatening cross into the box.

RM – SON HEUNG-MIN (TOTTENHAM)

Son Heung-Min

Son Heung-Min

There’s a point in which a player is so often labelled underrated that he actually just becomes rated and Son has entered that narrative.

Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to play the Korean over Eric Lamela was a good one as he absolutely assaulted Barzagli with poise and skill – the Italian responding by simply trying to physically assault him.

A tremendous performance and a 16th goal of the season. Another one of Spurs’ brilliant bargain buys.

CM – CASEMIRO (REAL MADRID)

Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Casemiro

Real Madrid’s Brazilian midfielder Casemiro

Casemiro is a strange player. In one sense, the fact he can do everything is to the detriment of Madrid when operates as a defensive midfielder and then that same talent is why he bossed PSG.

He had 80 touches, 56 (98 percent) passes completed, five tackles won, three clearances, two chances created, one take-on completed, one shot and one goal in Paris.

Adrien Rabiot vacated vasts amount of space in both phases of play and the Brazilian was able to control and dominate.

LM – KWADWO ASAMOAH (JUVENTUS)

Kwadwo Asamoah of Juventus

Kwadwo Asamoah of Juventus

Juve required two goals so when Allegri sent on Asamoah and Lichtsteiner you could sense a collective perplexion from the away end.

Not all moments of genius are as obvious as being hit by an apple but Asamoah’s introduction was vital.

The Ghanian stretched a compact Spurs defence and his injection of thrust freed up Higuain and Dybala to attack through the middle while allowing Alex Sandro to adopt a natural wider position.

FW – MOHAMED ELYOUNOUSSI (FC BASEL)

Basel's Norwegian midfielder Mohamed Elyounoussi

Basel’s Norwegian midfielder Mohamed Elyounoussi

The Norwegian flyer was the man of the match in Basel’s unlikely victory at the Etihad Stadium, scoring one and assisting the other.

City really struggled to cope with the 23-year-old and his trickery in one v one situations really caught the eye – the winner exemplifying his talent.

He slalomed his was through City’s defence before cutting a reverse ball for Michael Lang to fire home.

ST – CRISTIANO RONALDO (REAL MADRID)

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo

Real Madrid’s Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo rose highest to give PSG the Cris of death in the city of love. Sorry, had to, but the Portuguese star fortified his reputation as one of the best big-game players ever with the opener.

In the first 45 minutes he was far too involved in the early phases, dropping deep into pockets of space and looking to link-up with Karim Benzema.

After the break, he changed his tact to focus his attention on finishing up plays. A perfect centre-forward performance.

ST – GONZALO HIGUAIN (JUVENTUS)

Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain

Juventus forward Gonzalo Higuain

Justifiably the Uruguayan is volleyed with criticism for his inability to make a big impact when it matters most – last season’s Champions League final a prime example.

However, despite coming into the clash at Wembley with an injury, he was the difference-maker.

He was the only player alive in the box to delicately finish from Sami Khedira’s header and then his swoop round the back of Jan Vertonghen before slipping through Dybala for the winner was clinical.

08 03 2018 UCL TEAM OF THE WEEK MATCH 6th AND 7th

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