Why Barcelona should be optimistic despite drawing Chelsea in the Champions League

Barcelona have been drawn against Chelsea in the Last 16 round of the Champions League - which is not surprising considering the 44% possibility of this clash becoming a reality before the draw actually started.

This will be the 7th occasion in which Barcelona face Chelsea in Europe, with the Blaugranas having only been knocked out by the London Blues twice in history. Undoubtedly, Iniesta's late heart-stopping winner in the 2008/09 semifinal is a moment that will forever stand out in Cules' memories, but there are many others which instantly spring to mind. The frequency in which the two sides have met, particularly in the last decade, makes their rivalry a modern Champions League classic which both sets of fans are already looking forward to.

Ernesto Valverde had nothing but respect for the English champions: "Chelsea are a strong, physical team who have a very well defined way of playing, tactically. It’s a tough draw due against a big club. It will be a nice tie to play in, a tough tie but attractive and exciting for the players and the fans. 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.”

Chelsea are clearly a team that must be respected. Years of heavy investment have resulted on a team full of quality players, including former Blaugranas Cesc Fabregas and Pedro Rodriguez, that are more than capable of beating anybody when playing collaboratively as a unit. The impact of Conte, their passionate Italian manager, is obvious, having lead the London Blues to 52 wins, 8 draws and only 12 losses in his 72 matches in charge.

As we discussed in depth in Episode 51 of The Barcelona Podcast, Barcelona are a team in transition that is showing signs of constant growth and improvement. Sure, Valverde is yet to find his best XI and the system still needs a few tweaks here and there but, ultimately, it is clear there are many reasons to be optimistic about not only the Champions League, but also the La Liga and Copa del Rey campaigns. Here's why:

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