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  • By Paul Lagan

Chelsea humbled in Champions League as Barcelona’s Lionel Messi nabs brace in 3-0 win in Camp Nou

Photo by Yann Tear

Lionel Messi destroyed Chelsea at the Camp Nou tonight as Barcelona mauled Chelsea 3-0 to cruise through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, winning the tie 4-1 on aggregate. While the score-line suggests a comprehensive win, and it was, then Blues can console themselves that they were a tad unlucky not to have at least scored one goal. Marcos Alonso and Antonio Rudiger rattled the Catalan woodwork late on in both halves. Had Alonso’s free-kick gone in on 45 minutes it would have reduced the 2-0 deficient a clinical Barcelona created from the mercurial Messi and Ousmane Dembele. Both goals started from Chelsea errors and both could and should have been stopped by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. The Belgium stopper had one of those nights he would rather forget.

His international team mate Eden Hazard, while on the pitch, looked as if he was somewhere else, such was his luck of contribution. Chelsea might even take comfort from the fact they had the better of the second half. But even then it was Barcelona who scored – inevitably from the left boot of Messi – while created by yet another Chelsea error. Courtois, again, like the first let the ball zip through his legs. Head coach Antonio Conte had demanded a perfect performance. That would have required all his players performing to their maximum. It would have required no errors and a touch of clinical finishing of their own at the other end. Sadly, with the exception of N’Golo Kante, Alonso and Willian, everyone else fell short of that requirement. The result was a direct consequence. Some may argue that this was a glorious defeat – but it was simply a defeat – a humbling error-strewn defeat. The players will have to pick themselves up and prepare themselves for the less arduous task of taking on Leicester City, away on Sunday in the FA Cup.

Then it will be the tall order, after the international break of trying to overhaul Liverpool’s four point lead to snatch fourth place in the Premier League. That will be the only way the Blues will play in the Champions League next season. The future of Conte and the tactics employed in recent matches will surely add to the increasing speculation that he will leave SW6 at the end of this season. If Roman Abramovich is so inclined – it could come a little bit sooner.

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