Conte must find a way of nullifying Messi magic

Champions League talking points with Ger McCarthy

Conte must find a way of nullifying Messi magic

Conte’s last stand

For a manager reportedly under pressure, Antonio Conte does not give the impression of an individual too worried about his job status ahead of Chelsea’s biggest game of the season.

Buoyed by a recent upturn in domestic form and still in the hunt for two trophies, Chelsea are ready to take on a Barcelona side they last met in Europe’s premier competition back in 2012, when they knocked the Catalans out at the semi-final stage.

Conte will need to come up with a plan to curb Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi’s attacking threat, though the little Argentinian has failed to score against the Londoners in eight previous attempts.

Getting the best out of former Barca playmaker Cesc Fabregas and a rejuvenated Eden Hazard will go a long way to turning the game in Chelsea’s favour. Conte cannot afford to sit back which should make for a fascinating matchup, the result of which could have a seismic influence on the Italian manager’s future.

The Pogba unrest

Manchester United’s £89m (€100m) record signing will generate most headlines coming out of this week’s Champions League programme irrespective of whether he plays against Sevilla tomorrow evening.

Forced into launching a staunch defence of his relationship with the French international at a recent press conference, Jose Mourinho was unequivocal in stating any headlines reporting Pogba’s alleged unhappiness were nothing but “lies”.

Yet, the 24-year-old midfielder has failed to produce the levels of consistency whilst deployed in either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formations this season. Something is wrong and the situation between manager and star player appears to be deteriorating.

Irish Examiner Terrace Talker Richard Kurt made the valid point in yesterday’s edition that someone of Pogba’s stature should be able to handle these issues. Time will tell as Real Madrid monitor the situation with interest.

Heynckes’s magic touch

Nineteen points clear at the top of the Bundesliga, Jupp Heynckes’ return as head coach has Bayern Munich in the running for league and Champions League honours.

Even for a club of Bayern’s stature, the turnaround in form since the 2013 treble-winning manager Heynckes replaced Carlo Ancelotti has been sensational.

One defeat in Europe (away to PSG), two losses in 23 Bundesliga outings and qualification for the German Cup semi-finals means Bayern are back to their menacing best.

Heynckes’s ability to rejuvenate underperforming stars like Javi Martinez, Thomas Muller, Arjen Robben, and James Rodriguez gives the Bavarians every chance of overcoming a dangerous Besiktas side. On a 13-game winning streak, Bayern are to be feared in the latter stages of this season’s competition.

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