No title is at stake, but a certain level of bragging rights are as Barcelona and Chelsea duel Tuesday in International Champions Cup play at FedEx Field in Washington, D.C.
A matchup that would be fitting of a Champions League elimination round instead becomes an early test for two of the world’s most decorated and successful clubs, with Chelsea the reigning Premier League champions and Barcelona coming off the much-coveted treble last season. To hear Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas tell it, the Blues can unseat the Catalans from their European Cup perch.
Fabregas, who spent three seasons at Nou Camp, certainly credited Barcelona for their incredible attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez, but believes Chelsea can hang with any squad in the world.
“I think they are the best team in the world, especially when the front three are on form. I don’t remember a front three in Messi, Suarez and Neymar as powerful and talented since I was born. Obviously, they are a threat to everybody in the Champions League again this season,” the Spaniard told The Evening Standard. “Barcelona have the best strikeforce in the world and against that you have to play as a unit, you have to play very well. But there are no doubts that we can compete against anyone.”
“We have players like Hazard, Oscar, Costa and Willian who play in the attacking positions and for sure we have a great team.
“If we want to win Champions Leagues, we have to compete against the best. We will have to do well.”
The Blues are already coming off a sort of revenge victory over Paris Saint-Germain, the team that eliminated them from Champions League last year, but they won’t face the full breadth of Barcelona’s attack.
Neither Messi nor Neymar are expected to play due to fatigue from their runs in the Copa America earlier this month. But even Suarez by himself is enough to carry the Catalans and threaten Chelsea’s defense.
The match could also serve as the gateway to Andres Iniesta’s return to fame. The 31-year-old playmaker and former Ballon d’Or finalist endured a difficult run last season, and some even blamed manager Luis Enrique for some of his struggles. But Iniesta insisted the manager’s style hasn’t hindered his play.
"In the end, you always have to find your place and feel well in a certain formation and I am able to continue doing just that. Is is true that perhaps some things have changed for me, but that is not a negative thing in my opinion,” Iniesta said, according to Goal.com. "I have gone through all kinds of moments last season, with different emotions, I don't think it was a bad season for me on a personal level. I am more than happy both on an individual and collective level for what we achieved.
"I am hoping for an even better season on both levels in 2015-2016."
Iniesta appeared in 24 La Liga matches last season, and failed to score a single goal for the first time in 10 years. But Iniesta’s healthy now and his playmaking and leadership in the central midfield should be a significant factor against Chelsea’s top midfielders in Hazard, Fabregas, and Juan Cuadrado coming off the bench.
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 2
Live Online: FoxSoccer2Go