Nathan Staples takes you through the 10 things that you should know ahead of PSG’s crucial Champions League 2nd leg match-up with Chelsea.
Last season’s meeting shouldn’t matter:
It’s a strange thing to say but these two sides are in completely different places than they were last year when they met in the quarter-finals. Chelsea have really strengthened their squad, have a solid grip on top spot in England and look like potential world-beaters. Paris Saint-Germain aren’t having an easy time domestically and whilst they’ve had some bright spots in Europe, there is much more pressure on them to succeed than previously.
The Ligue 1 champions haven’t been in imperious form this season but they have improved of late, having lost just once in their last eighteen games in all competitions. They are slowly growing in confidence that really came to light in the second half of the Lens game at the weekend where they started to express their quality. It’s a good sign that they’ll be in a positive mood heading into a big game in England.
Despite being terrific all season long, Chelsea haven’t quite been at their rampaging best recently. They’ve won five of their last eight, drawing twice and losing infamously to Bradford City in the FA Cup but they’ve had a scary level of consistency this season. They’ve failed to score in a game just once this season in all competitions, so it’s likely that PSG will need at least two goals to stand a chance of going through.
The Zlatan conundrum:
It’s been an odd year for the eccentric Swede Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he’s not really hit his stride yet and despite getting plenty of opportunities, he’s not finding the back of the net as often as he usually does. It’s a worry for PSG, he’s an almost undroppable player but he needs to produce if given the chances at Stamford Bridge. If he doesn’t, PSG will fall out of Europe and more questions will be asked of Ibrahimovic.
Hazard is on fire:
A lot of attention has been focused on Diego Costa this season but the real outstanding player this season for Chelsea has been Eden Hazard. The Belgian has been ever-present within the side and will the ball at his feet, other teams start to panic. It’s essential for PSG to keep him quiet if they want to win, he’s good enough to win the game on his own if it comes down to the wire.
PSG have options in midfield:
The game at the weekend really showcased the options that PSG currently have in midfield and the selection headache facing Laurent Blanc before this tie. Adrian Rabiot and Marco Veratti started the game and both performed very well but the team looked just as good when they were replaced by Javier Pastore and Blaise Matuidi in the final third of the game. The real positive is that they can currently rely on any of the four to perform on the night or to come on and create something but they need to find the right partnership that’ll help them get the goals they need.
Zouma breaking into the first team:
Kurt Zouma was a known commodity in France yet not many across the channel knew quite how talented he was, until now. The former Saint-Etienne defender has kept Gary Cahill out of the side recently and it’s been incredibly difficult to move him. Even when Mourinho did, he put him in the holding midfield role in place of the suspended Nemanja Matic in the League Cup Final and he excelled again. He’s becoming a real asset, one that PSG should be very aware of.
Luiz in midfield?
The question was asked whilst the Brazilian was at Stamford Bridge and whilst it never materialised in London, it looks like Laurent Blanc is more confident of having David Luiz shield his back-line rather than be a part of it. With Marquinhos proving his talent and Thiago Motta failing to rediscover the form that earned him so many plaudits last season, it’ll not be a surprise to see the enigimatic 27-year-old start there again. Will he shine? He’ll not need much motivation to show Jose Mourinho what he’s missing.
Mourinho’s mind games?
The Special One planted the seed in his press conference yesterday, suggest that the Parisians were the “most aggressive” side his team have played this year. Whilst that’s not such a stinging assessment, they did give away plenty of fouls and stood up to Chelsea, it’ll be the added nugget of expecting “more football and less aggression.” Some will dismiss it as nothing, but expect PSG to be fired up for this one.
You will be on the edge of your seat…
Having a 1-1 in the first leg of any Champions League tie keeps the second leg very interesting. PSG need a goal but one doesn’t seem like it’ll be enough against a strong Chelsea team who are very good at home and the tactical battle ahead will be key. The changes and tweaks from the managers could decide this one with both teams performing well and if it comes down to that, you have to give Mourinho the edge.