Chelsea have never been short of heroes during their trips to the Camp Nou.
Who could forget club icon Frank Lampard’s lob against Victor Valdes from an impossible angle in 2006? Or the remarkable raid six years later which set the path for Champions League glory, with dogged Ramires pulling off an artisanal chip from right-back and the bemoaned Jose Bosingwa performing like a warrior in the centre of defence for the Blues’ 10 men?
Such redoubtable displays have been required to gain an unbelievable statistic.
During a spell in which Barcelona have boasted arguably football’s strongest club side, Chelsea have remained unbeaten in four visits since 2006.
No victories were gained in this time. That’s no surprise.
But after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in which the hosts exceeded expectations, this faultless run should provide welcome cheer for embattled manager Antonio Conte.
A new talisman is required on Wednesday night to carry them over the line – and red-hot Willian is the outstanding candidate.
Amid Spain striker Alvaro Morata’s descent into a goalscoring abyss and the grumbles from Belgium livewire Eden Hazard about his false-nine deployment, the Brazil forward has burned red hot.
50 - Willian is making his 50th consecutive Premier League appearance today - the longest current run in the competition among outfield players. Ubiquitous. pic.twitter.com/WUex5cHstb— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 20, 2018
During this run, the 29-year-old has rocketed in five goals from five matches. This figure would have been boosted further if the woodwork hadn’t twice denied him last month before he fired in a resounding opener against Barca.
That’s a goal every 87.6 minutes. Half of his shots on target (10) have led to the keeper picking the ball out of his net.
During this timeframe, only Olivier Giroud and Pedro have joined him on the scoresheet – and both of these efforts came in the 4-0 FA Cup rout of a bedraggled Hull City who could be bound for League One.
The 2-1 weekend win against Crystal Palace was, of course, earned through Martin Kelly’s own goal.
Willian is the proud possessor of 13 strikes in 2017/18, already making this term his most productive in west London. A handsome return made more surprising by the fact he waited until October 10 to break his duck, at the 14th time of asking.
Since he was stolen from Tottenham’s grasp in 2013, the limelight has rarely been Willian’s at Stamford Bridge. A subservient role and occasional thunderbolt are all that’s been asked of him him as Hazard and – departed – Spain centre forward Diego Costa dominated.
Collective knowledge within Chelsea’s core details special effort is a necessity to come away from Camp Nou in the quarter-finals.
From Barca’s last 48 home matches, only twice has a scoreline been recorded that would send the Blues through without needing penalties.
On home territory in 2017/18, they’ve registered 60 times from 22 games in all competitions – including a 3-0 humbling of Conte’s beloved Juventus in the group stage.
In the absence of any likelier source, the Blues will look to Willian to pull off this epic feat.
It’s a scenario few expected. But one he’s ready to pull off.
Sevilla pulled off the shock result of the round as they stunned Manchester United in a 2-1 win at Old Trafford to reach the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time.
Wissam Ben Yedder’s two goals off the bench knocked United out after Sevilla had struggled in the first half.
Here’s how their players fared in this historic result.
Sergio Rico 6 – Would’ve expected to be busier on a trip to Old Trafford. Instead, had little to do, a symbol of how toothless United were.
Gabriel Mercado 5 – United didn’t exploit Mercado’s flank enough – he looked shaky enough the few times they put him under pressure.
Simon Kjaer 7 – The 28-year-old was immense at the back, helping contain United’s attack alongside Lenglet.
Clement Lenglet 8 – The young defender was an absolute beast, sticking to Lukaku as best as he could and absorbing United’s attacks.
Sergio Escudero 6 – Escudero was wasteful when he joined the attack, but solid enough – and untested – in the rearguard.
Ever Banega 5 – After his performance in the first leg, this was a surprisingly quiet display from the Argentine.
Steven N’Zonzi 8 – A superb display from the French midfielder. Always in the right place, helped his defence with Lukaku, and commanded his midfield.
Pablo Sarabia 5 – Wasteful in possession, doing little with the many opportunities in attack that he had.
Franco Vazquez 5 – Picked as Sevilla’s main attacking midfielder, but didn’t carve out many chances when on the ball.
Joaquin Correa 5 – Time and again, Correa found himself in good position at the edge of the United box, only to waste it.
Luis Muriel 4 – Even if Ben Yedder hadn’t come on and scored, Muriel was awful enough to show the Frenchman should haev started.
Wissam Ben Yedder 9 – Two questions: how did he not start? And how did he not score a hat-trick? A stunning cameo from the Frenchman.
Guido Pizarro 6 – Came on as a time-eating substitute at the end. Helped Sevilla withstand United’s late charge.
Johannes Geis 5 – Another late substitute sent on to kill time, as well as absorb the United pressure at the end.
Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League after a shock 2-1 loss at home to Sevilla in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie.
It was a limp display from Jose Mourinho’s side, who fell prey to two quick strikes from substitute Wissam Ben Yedder in the second half, with Romelu Lukaku’s goal proving mere consolation.
Here’s how United’s players fared overall.
David de Gea 6 – Couldn’t do much about the first and nearly pulled off an astonishing save for the second. Denied Ben Yedder a hat-trick.
Antonio Valencia 5 – An off-colour day for the captain. Solid at the back but offered little going forward, on a day United needed it.
Eric Bailly 5 – Shook off an early error to produce a strong display, but the introduction of Ben Yedder caused the Ivorian problems.
Chris Smalling 6 – It’s not often Smalling will outplay Bailly – although both were culpable for Sevilla’s goals.
Ashley Young 4 – Completely lost Ben Yedder for Sevilla’s second, and failed to add attacking impetus from left-back.
Marouane Fellaini 5 – Solid enough in midfield, but contributed to a plodding display from an attacking sense, offering zero inventiveness.
Nemanja Matic 5 – The creative burden fell on Matic with no Pogba next to him, and he failed to deliver.
Marcus Rashford 6 – Was one of the few sparks for United but his final ball was lacking. Disappointing after his display against Liverpool.
Jesse Lingard 5 – Was picked ahead of Juan Mata ostensibly to provide a greater threat on the counter-attack, but ultimately had no impact at all.
Alexis Sanchez 4 – Misplaced passes, lacking confidence to take on a scoring chance first-time – a display typical of his time at United.
Romelu Lukaku 7 – Was United’s best player on the night, holding up the ball well. Missed one clear-cut chance but scored another with aplomb.
Paul Pogba 5 – Offered no impact after coming on. Didn’t look fully fit, and couldn’t provide the running United needed in midfield.
Juan Mata 6 – Hard to see why he didn’t start. Had an instant impact after coming on, creating a chance that Lukaku should’ve finished.
Anthony Martial 5 – Couldn’t provide his usual trickery on the wing, although in fairness he had little time to make an impact.