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20th Feb 2018

Willian leads by example as Chelsea show what they’ve been missing all season

Their performance only highlighted how lacking they've been this season

Wayne Farry

A bittersweet performance.

It was a night which saw Chelsea upset the odds against Barcelona, but it ended as one tinged with regret for the Blues; not just for this tie, but for their season in general.

Coming into the game seriously unfancied against a side unbeaten in both the league and Champions League so far this season, Conte’s team expertly kept out their opponents for the majority of the game.

The standout performer was undoubtedly Willian, who ran the Catalans ragged and could have had a hat-trick with a bit more luck.

It was a game that showcased Chelsea at their pragmatic best: as solid in defence as they were quick on the counter attack, and were it not for the widths of two goal posts they may well have taken a comfortable lead to the Camp Nou.

But as good as Chelsea were tonight, their performance only served to highlight just how lacking they have been domestically this season.

Though Barcelona were always a danger, the home side dominated large portions of the game and indeed at times you’d scarcely believe this was the same team that had been pummeled 4-1 by Watford less than a month ago.

But the same team it was, aside from one crucial difference: motivation, something which has been a major issue for Chelsea since Jose Mourinho’s return in 2009 and one which continues to haunt them now.

Their title victory last season was incredibly impressive, but not one pundit or fan has been surprised by this season’s lull. This says something about the club and clearly suggests an issue within.

The problem is not just with the players, it is with Antonio Conte too, who leaped and screamed on the sideline tonight in a manner not befitting his unusually muted manner for the much of the season to date.

He must take his fair share of the blame, as well as the owner Roman Abramovich, whose lack of proper investment at a time of record spending has led to his team bringing in sub-par players they wouldn’t have dreamed of bringing in three years ago.

In spite of all of these issues, this game was evidence that Chelsea are not a spent force, and are in fact capable of putting it up to the very best.

Now they just need to start doing it against the Watfords and Bournemouths of the world, if they can be bothered.