Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas: I speak to Barcelona friends less with game coming up
Cesc Fabregas has revealed that communication with his friends at Barcelona has dried up as Chelsea prepare to take on the Catalan giants in the Champions League round of 16 on Tuesday.
The two clubs meet at Stamford Bridge for the first time in Europe's elite club competition since April 2012, when Chelsea triumphed 3-2 on aggregate in a dramatic semifinal en route to claiming the trophy.
Few players remain from that victorious Chelsea side but Fabregas knows what to expect from Barcelona better than most, having come through La Masia and spent three years at the club as a professional after an eight-year stint with Arsenal, before moving to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2014.
Fabregas remains close friends with Lionel Messi as well as several other former teammates but, speaking after Chelsea's 4-0 victory over Hull City in the FA Cup fifth round on Friday, the Spain international said that cordialities have been put on hold with the two clubs set to face off again.
"I speak to some of them nearly every day," Fabregas said of his friends at Barcelona, before adding: "Probably now, we speak less -- maybe because of the game."
Antonio Conte believes Chelsea need to play "the perfect game" to have a chance of overcoming Barcelona, and Fabregas insisted that his performance will not be affected by his connection to Tuesday's opponents if called upon.
"It's my hometown, it's the club I supported for all my life," he added. "In that way, yes, it will be emotional. But once you step into the pitch, that just goes away. I did it with Arsenal.
"It's a massive night for the players, for the club, for English football in general, so hopefully we can do well and give a good image of what we can do.
"Barcelona are still a great side. They try to put the first pressure very high, always work towards the ball. But if we can past this first phase and not put ourselves under too much pressure then I think that we can hurt them.
"They will leave a lot of spaces at the back. We have three days to work on the game and I'm sure the manager will find the best solution."
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.