Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has said his team wanted to avoid facing Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.
Valverde, on Monday, also noted that he is wary of the “incredible” form shown by England’s representatives in the competition this season.
Chelsea were runners-up in Group C behind Roma – who are third in Serie A – only on the head-to-head rule. Valverde’s own side finished three points clear of Juventus to win Group D, and made no secret of the fact he would have preferred the standings to be reversed.
He said; “We wish Chelsea had finished first in their group so we didn’t have to play them,” Valverde said. “They’re the Premier League champions, a very strong team there on merit. English teams this year are in incredible form, much better than in previous years. Chelsea might be the same. We know that, because the English have such a strong league, they’ll all be up there competing.
“Chelsea have a unique style of football and know their own game. The English style of football is very unique, very physical, but they play good football as well. It’s different playing Chelsea because of their formation, but Girona play with a similar system in La Liga so we’ve played against it before.
That inimitable style, according to Valverde, owes everything to Antonio Conte. Before Chelsea’s wins over West Brom and Hull there had been speculation the Italian might not even be in charge for Tuesday’s game but Valverde views him as a reference point.