Last time Barcelona lost the first leg of a Champions League knock-out tie to an English team, Lionel Messi scored two goals in the return leg at Camp Nou.
The Argentine’s double came against Arsenal in the last-16 of last season’s competition and helped them knock the Gunners out 4-3 on aggregate.
Given Messi has scored 20 goals in Barcelona’s last 13 games, he looks primed to ride to the Catalan side’s rescue once again.
But while Messi is normally a sure-fire bet in the anytime goalscorer market, yet another goal for Barcelona’s number ten cannot be predicted with the usual degree of certainty.
For starters, Barca are up against Chelsea, and Messi has yet to score against the Blues in seven attempts.
And then there is the fact that Messi has failed to score in his last two fixtures, with a blank at Stamford Bridge last week followed up by another fruitless 90 minutes in front of goal against Real Madrid in Saturday’s Clasico.
Remarkably, Messi not only missed out on a place on the scoresheet against Los Blancos but the Real defence also prevented him from having a single shot on goal.
Barcelona have conceded first in four of their last five matches yet Drogba is the shortest price of any Chelsea player to score first at 10/1 – putting him behind Messi, Sanchez (5/1), Fabregas (6/1), Pedro (6/1), Cuenca (7/1) and Tello (7/1) in the overall market.
But does this really mean that the 24-year-old should be overlooked as a possible goalscorer bet?
Not when you consider that Messi is Barcelona’s penalty taker – and that Pep Guardiola’s men have been awarded five spot-kicks in their last seven games, all of which have been converted by the Fifa Ballon d’Or holder.
And with Barcelona likely to be camped in Chelsea’s half for the overwhelming majority of the game, Messi could find himself of the scoresheet even if he fails to find the back of the net from open play.
With this in mind, Messi is a good bet to score at 11/20 while the market-leading odds offered by bwin on the Argentine to score first are there to be taken advantage of.
At odds of 5/2, a successful £25 free bet on Messi to score first in Barcelona v Chelsea is set to return £87.50, with the free bet available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account.
If Messi doesn’t prove to be the man to help Barcelona overturn their 1-0 first leg deficit then Alexis Sanchez could be.
Left out of the starting line-up against Real, Sanchez came off the bench to score Barca’s goal in the Clasico to take his tally to three goals in his last four appearances – making him more prolific than Messi in this timeframe.
And at odds of 7/5, an anytime goal for Sanchez would be far more lucrative than one for the odds-on Argentine.
For Chelsea, Didier Drogba (11/4 to score at any time) remains the biggest threat, not least because, aside from the goal they scored on the counter-attack, Chelsea were most dangerous in the first leg from set pieces.
It is also worth noting that Barcelona have conceded first in four of their last five matches yet Drogba is the shortest price of any Chelsea player to score first at 10/1 – putting him behind Messi, Sanchez (5/1), Cesc Fabregas (6/1), Pedro (6/1), Isaac Cuenca (7/1) and Cristian Tello (7/1) in the overall market.
To put this into further context, Emile Heskey is 7/1 to score first in Aston Villa v Bolton this evening – suggesting the Ivorian is over-priced for the opening goal at Camp Nou.
However, if the game is still in the balance with the clock approaching 90 minutes it could be the pace of likely substitute Fernando Torres rather than the brute strength and aerial prowess of Drogba which proves decisive.
With the pitch at Camp Nou being larger than the compact Stamford Bridge, Barca could negate the threat of Drogba by playing a high line.
But this would play right into the hands of Torres who, while not quite as electric as he once was, still has the pace to trouble the likes of Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol.
A small play on the former Liverpool striker to score last at 11/1 could therefore be one final bet to consider.
Recommended bet: Messi to score first @ 5/2
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