BARCELONA, Spain, Mar 13 – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has described Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta as a “genius” and challenged Eden Hazard to emulate the Spaniard by winning major trophies.
Iniesta faces a race against time to be fit for Wednesday’s Champions League clash at the Camp Nou, with the tie delicately poised following a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
The midfielder has been included in the squad after recovering from a hamstring injury and his return would represent a major boost to Barca’s hopes.
Conte said Chelsea would have to play the “perfect game” to reach the quarter-finals and they will need Hazard to deliver too.
Hazard has grown frustrated in recent weeks with his lone role up front but when asked to compare the Belgian with Iniesta, Conte said: “We’re talking about two different players with different careers. Iniesta won a lot in his career, Hazard has to start winning important trophies.”
On the impact of Iniesta’s possible return, Conte added: “I like to compare him with Andrea Pirlo. We are talking about a genius of the football.
“I don’t know if tomorrow he could play. In this type of game it’s right to face the best players and you don’t hope they will miss out with injury.”
Chelsea were unfortunate only to take a draw from the first leg at Stamford Bridge, where Lionel Messi’s equaliser spoiled an otherwise dominant Blues performance.
But Barca are still unbeaten in La Liga and Messi will be well-rested, having sat out Saturday’s win over Malaga to attend the birth of his third child.
“We must have the game to play with concentration, stay with our head in every moment,” Conte said.
“We have to know there are moments we have to suffer because that is not only for Chelsea but every team against Barcelona must be ready to suffer and be compact.
“With the ball you must then have in your head and your heart the feeling you will have the chance to score.”
Conte said Antonio Rudiger is in contention after recovering from muscle fatigue but Ross Barkley (hamstring) and David Luiz (ankle) are out.