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Ernesto Valverde: Chelsea is a tough draw

Ernesto Valverde: Chelsea is a tough draw

The Barça coach cast his eye over his team’s last 16 Champions League tie against the current Premier League champions

FC Barcelona now know who they will be up against in the last 16 of this season’s Champions League. To progress to the quarter-finals, the blaugranes will first have to knock out the current Premier League champions Chelsea.

The draw on Monday at UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon in Switzerland brought the two clubs together and following his team’s training session at the Ciutat Esportiva, Barça coach Ernesto Valverde gave his initial reactions to the pairing to Barça TV. “It’s a tough draw due against a big club. We knew it was not going to be easy because there was a lot of top sides in the pot and we have got one of the trickiest.” “It will be a nice tie to play in, a tough tie but attractive and exciting for the players and the fans,” said the coach

Valverde also gave a quick analysis of his team’s English opposition. “Chelsea are a strong, physical team who have a very well defined way of playing, tactically,” he said before turning his attention to his opposite number.

“Antonio Conte is a coach with an impressive CV; he has won trophies with Chelsea and with Juventus and I get the feeling he is a methodical, tactical coach who is really well organised.

“I don’t have any doubt that they will study us in depth, we have two months to get ready for the games and we can watch them, and they can watch us.”

Sergi Roberto received the Barça Players fair play award on Monday after which he also gave his opinion on the draw. “We were prepared for Chelsea because we knew there was a good chance of drawing them. It will be tough but we are motivated and happy to have got them,” said the midfielder.

Guillermo Amor, the man responsible for sporting and institutional relations at FC Barcelona, also gave his opinion on the last 16 draw, saying “we will see a joyous Barça who will not change their style of play at home or away.”

Another who spoke to Barça TV following the draw was Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen, fresh from his excellent performance against Villarreal. “It’s a small stadium but the crowd are right on top of you so it will be a great game,” said the centre half who has plenty of experience of playing at Stamford Bridge thanks to his time as an Arsenal player. Vermaelen continued to identify one of the dangermen for Barça, his Belgian international team mate Eden Hazard. “He is a world class player. He was injured in the summer but he has recovered well and is back to his best,” concluded the defender. 

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