?Barcelona are ready to usher in a new Dutch revolution at the club after they sent scouts to watch four Ajax starlets in action, according to reports in the Netherlands.
??De Telegraaf? has claimed that La Blaugrana sent scouts to see the next ‘golden generation’ to emerge from Ajax’s famed youth academy play for the Eredivisie giants last weekend.
The quartet in question appear to be winger Justin Kluivert – son of Dutch legend Patrick – defender Matthijs de Ligt and midfield duo Donny van de Beek and Frenkie de Jong.
Former Barca ace Jose Mari Bakero was the man sent by the Catalan giants to run the rule over the four youngsters as Ajax saw off FC Zwolle in the Dutch top flight 1-0, and will have been left impressed by their fitness levels at the very least as all four completed the full 90 minutes.
Kluivert has become one of the hottest properties in his homeland due to both his family connections and his superb talents.
The 18-year-old forward, who recently stated that he wouldn’t have any issues playing in the Premier League has featured in all but five of Ajax’s matches this term, and has weighed in with seven goals and four assists for the second-placed side.
If Vermaelen leaves the club this summer or if Mina will be send out on loan, Barcelona will do everything possible to sign Matthijs de Ligt. The Dutch talent will cost around 40 million euros. [md]
— BarcaSpiral (@BarcaSpiral_) 21 February 2018
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Capable of playing on the left or right wing, the Dutch Under-21 international has been earmarked as a potential Manchester United and Chelsea target but Barca will have something to say about that.
De Ligt, meanwhile, has long been a target of La Blaugrana and they have remained interested in him for a number of seasons.
??? Frenkie de Jong’s passing in the Eredivisie this season:
• 1,136 short passes
• 1,055 short passes completed
• 68 long balls
• 57 long balls completed
92.4% overall accuracy. ? pic.twitter.com/QsbPQlio5N
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) 13 February 2018
The centre-back has made 52 appearances in all competitions for Ajax over the past 18 months and has been touted as a future Netherlands international captain due to his physical and technical qualities.
Van de Beek and de Jong have both made centre midfield berths their own over the past two seasons, with the 20-year-old pair racking up some impressive stats for their club.
Indeed, van de Beek’s haul of 11 goals this season has gone some way to filling the void left by Davy Klaassen while de Jong is an assist machine with nine goals laid on for his teammates.
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Chelsea 1-1 Barcelona: Honors Even as Willian Impresses in Frustrating Stamford Bridge Tie for Blues
Chelsea put in a stellar performance to earn a 1-1 draw against Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie thanks to Willian’s goal just after the hour mark.
The Brazilian impressed all game but Lionel Messi’s first career goal against Chelsea with fifteen minutes to go means it’s all to play for at the Camp Nou next month.
The home team started on the front foot and had a series of half chances within the opening ten minutes, with Hazard coming closest as he watched his blistering long range drive fizz just over the corner of where post meets bar.
However, it was Barcelona who had the first real chance of the match. Messi dinked the ball towards Paulinho at the back post but his header bounced wide when he really should have taken advantage of the space he found in the Chelsea box.
Both sides were playing very cautiously and appeared petrified of conceding after committing too much going forward.
An extremely cynical tap tackle on Willian earned Ivan Rakitic a yellow card and Chelsea a free-kick in a very dangerous position. Marcos Alonso stepped up on the half hour mark but didn’t quite get it far enough in the corner, making it an easy gather for Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Willian looked to be Chelsea’s brightest spark and he managed to hit both posts within ten minutes. The first effort came after Eden Hazard lay off but his curling shot from long distance crashed off the woodwork.
The second was much the same but this time, the Brazilian shaped to curl it and instead rocketed it against Ter Stegen’s opposing pillar with the German’s goal just about defended for now.
After half-time, Luis Suarez showed the first glimpse of what he can do when he broke in behind the Chelsea defence for the first time but skewed his shot horribly wide.
You might have thought the crossbar was next on Willian’s hit list to complete the holy trinity, but it was the back of the net that was shaking after his shot in the 62nd minute put Chelsea ahead.
Cesc Fabregas played a short corner to Hazard who found the Brazilian on the edge of the box. He did fantastically well to move the ball out of his feet and bend a low drive round Antonio Rudiger, leaving Ter Stegen stranded.
The Blues attempted to solidify their lead and hold on until the end but Messi managed to score his first career goal against Chelsea in the 75th minute. A horrible stray pass by young defender Andreas Christensen along the edge of his own penalty area gifted the ball to Andres Iniesta who squared the ball for the Argentinian to emphatically finish.
If either team deserved to win it was Chelsea but a draw was probably the fair result on the balance of play. The two European titans will battle again at the Camp Nou on March 14.
Team to face Barcelona: Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro.
Subs: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Hudson-Odoi, Giroud, Morata. #CHEBARpic.twitter.com/lzHoGYN626
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 20, 2018
The reigning Premier League champions have already seen Manchester City and Liverpool all but secure their place in the quarter final draw after thumping first leg wins over Basel and Porto respectively, while Tottenham bagged two away goals against Juventus in Italy.
Manchester United, of course, will get going on Wednesday when they travel to Sevilla.
When taking into account how Barça have previously fared at this stage of the competition, particularly against English opposition, it makes for uneasy reading.
Research from LeoVegas Sport can reveal that Barcelona have won as many as 69% of the Last 16 affairs they have played since the round was introduced in 2003/04. During that time, they have also scored 59 goals across those 14 two-legged ties.
Chelsea may have knocked them out at this stage back in 2004/05, but Barcelona’s win rate specifically against British opposition is even better, winning 75% of the 16 games they have played across eight Last 16 ties against English and Scottish teams.
The game on Tuesday will take place in London, with Barcelona winning on British soil in 2005/06 (Chelsea), 2006/07 (Liverpool), 2007/08 (Celtic), 2013/14 (Manchester City) and 2015/16 (Arsenal). If they win the away leg this time, it will give them a huge advantage ahead of the return at Camp Nou.
But when Barcelona have lost games against British teams in the Last 16, they have done so when their opponent shut them out in the second half. That was the case when Liverpool won in Camp Nou in 2006/07, when Arsenal won the first leg in 2010/11, and when Chelsea themselves won 4-2 in the second leg in 2004/05, prevailing 5-4 on aggregate as a result.
If Chelsea can keep a lid on Barça’s potent attack, they’ll certainly give themselves a chance.
(You may also be interested in ‘Play in Goal or Leave! Marc-Andre ter Stegen Tells Incredible Story of How He Became a Goalkeeper’)
Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has previewed Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Chelsea, identifying the Blues’ strengths, praising their midfield and singling out Belgian forward Eden Hazard as a key threat.
The Croatian revealed his excitement for the clash at Stamford Bridge as Barcelona, fresh from a ?2-0 La Liga win over Eibar on Saturday, bid to reach the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite club competition.
“At last this moment has finally arrived,” Rakitic told ?AS.
“We know that winning the league is the most important thing, and we’ve also got the Copa, but the motivation in the Champions League is different, it’s special. We want to continue making history and playing well. We have a great opportunity to show the whole world what we can do.”
Stopping Chelsea will not be easy but Rakitic says his side have analysed their opposition and insisted they will be fully prepared for the game.
He said: “
Rakitic added: “He’s probably Chelsea’s best player, so we’ll need to be fully prepared to try and stop him. He’s very quick and will cause us problems in one-on-one moves.”
Speaking on his side’s preparation, Rakitic cited Lionel Messi’s work in the gym as the Argentinian looks to improve on his poor record against Chelsea, having not scored in his previous eight games against the Blues.
“Messi looks very focused, he’s been working very hard,” said Rakitic. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him working out so much in the gym – you can really see the results.
“He’s been training flat out to be in top shape for some time and we need him.”
?Chelsea are not alone when it comes to being embarrassed by Barcelona, new signing Antonio Rudiger also feels the pain. During his time at AS Roma last season, the Catalans defeated Rudiger’s side 6-1 but now he’s ready for revenge.
Within a recent interview (Evening Standard), the German defender has expressed his desire and eagerness to play Barcelona following the thrashing he received during his time in Italy.
However, Rudiger has assured the Chelsea fans that he will play to the best of his ability, despite the German defender issuing an apology for the teams ‘disgusting performance’ to Roma fans last season.
“Football is played out on the pitch for 90 minutes, it is not what happens before. Anyone who has fear or something like that should not play. You have to be mentally ready when the referee blows the whistle. That’s it. I’m ready for them,” Rudiger said.
The German defender also went onto say: “When I was younger, I was dreaming about playing in a game like this. I think everyone does. I played against them before with AS Roma, but now I’m with Chelsea.”.
In addition to this, Rudiger mentioned the importance of Chelsea’s recent win over Hull City following ?shock defeats to Watford and Bournemouth.
“It was important for us to bounce back after two defeats and is just what we needed,” Rudiger mentioned.
Chelsea will take on the Catalans at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night, where they hope that the Blues home advantage will affect the result.