By talkSPORT – @talkSPORT
Monday, December 11, 2017
Head coach Antonio Conte insists Chelsea must be positive about the Champions League draw which sees his side face five-times European champions Barcelona.
Having finished second in their group behind Roma, the Premier League champions were hoping for a potential last-16 tie against Besiktas but instead came out against Lionel Messi’s band of superstars.
“It’s a draw. Our reaction must be positive,” Conte said at his press conference on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s Premier League clash at Huddersfield.
“When you are in this stage you must be ready to face every team. In this case we must be ready to face Barcelona.
“When you play against Barcelona you must put 120 per cent at home and away if you want to hope to go to the next round.”
The first leg takes place at Stamford Bridge on February 20 – and is scheduled to be followed by Premier League matches at Manchester United (February 24) and Manchester City (March 3) – with the second leg at the Nou Camp on March 14.
And Conte’s immediate focus is on the Premier League after last Saturday’s loss at West Ham saw the Blues slip 14 points behind City as the Italian dismissed past battles with Barca.
But he will hope to invoke the memory of their remarkable win over the Catalan giants in 2012, when goals from Ramires and Fernando Torres saw them reach the Champions League final on away goals despite the earlier dismissal of John Terry.
“The past is the past. Now it’s the present, another story. It’s totally different,” he said.
Tottenham were also handed a questionable reward for finishing ahead of Real Madrid in their qualifying group as they were paired with last year’s runners-up Juventus.
But Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will be relatively content after being paired with Basel, Sevilla and Porto respectively.
The remaining three ties pit Real Madrid against Paris St Germain, Shakhtar Donetsk with Roma, and Bayern Munich against Besiktas.
Spurs can expect to face a sterner test than that posed by Juventus in their last meeting in a pre-season friendly at Wembley in August, which the north Londoners won 2-0.
City will be delighted to land Swiss outsiders Basel. But they will have good cause to be wary against their experienced opposition, who beat both United and Benfica on their way to qualifying as runners-up from Group A.