The Champion’s League Round-of-16 Clash set for February 20 between FC Barcelona and Chelsea FC is shaping up to be a showdown for the ages. The clubs, who share an all-time head-to-head record of 5 wins, 5 losses, and 5 draws, will be looking to break their historical stalemate and advance to the quarterfinals in their quest for European glory.
Despite boasting some of the world’s best players—with Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata looking to best Barca legends Luis Suarez and the incomparable Lionel Messi—the only other similarity the clubs seem to share at the moment is they both have a Japanese sponsor.
Yokohama Tire-backed Chelsea are struggling to find their form, having only won 4 of 12 matches so far in 2018, failing to score in 4. The club now find themselves in 5th place in the Premier League. If they are to salvage their season they need to get past high-flying Barcelona.
While Chelsea struggles to hit their stride, FC Barcelona are enjoying one of the best campaigns in the Club’s storied history. Through 40 competitive matches, the Blaugrana have yet to lose since the La Liga campaign kicked off in late August 2017 and have a realistic shot at the fabled “Treble” (winning La Liga, Copa del Rey, and Champions League in a single season).
Heading into this season, Barca fans had a lot of reasons for optimism. The club unveiled its eye-catching new Rakuten kit in the Spring before officially kicking off its global partnership with Rakuten on July 1st. A new manager in Ernesto Valverde and the acquisition of incredible talents like Semedo, Paulinho, Dembele, Coutinho and Yerry Mina injected the club with a new look and vitality that has since delivered incredible results.
With its undefeated record and dominating brand of football on the pitch, few, if any fans could have any reason for disappointment. Through 24 La Liga games, Barcelona has scored the most goals and allowed the second fewest goals. Their goal differential is a staggering +51, nearly double the second-best differential of +29 by Real Madrid.
But as the Club will be quick to point out, it is still only February and there is a lot of football left to be played and Chelsea represent a dangerous challenge. After all, Chelsea FC’s symbol is a lion and they say an animal is most dangerous when it is wounded.
Japan and the world will be watching.