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Champions League PREVIEW: Round of 16: Chelsea (1) vs PSG (1) (2nd Leg)

Josh Mart previews the mouth-watering Champions League second leg encounter between Chelsea and PSG at Stamford Bridge. The first leg, which ended 1-1, was an extremely tight affair which PSG feel as though they edged and possibly deserved to win. Les Parisiens dominated the game in terms of attempts and shaded the possession but were unable to prevent Chelsea scoring that crucial and potentially decisive away goal through in form Serbian defender Branislav Ivanovic.

Despite this though, Cavani’s equaliser means that PSG travel to London knowing that they can qualify with a higher score draw or obviously a victory. Both managers have been trying to play mind games with the other in the build-up, Laurent Blanc has issued a warning to his players to avoid Diego Costa’s controversial antics, whereas Mourinho has labelled PSG the most physical side he has faced this season. It promises to be a fascinating evening in West London.

Since the first leg in Paris, Chelsea have maintained their superiority in the Premier League and have also won a trophy- after defeating Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 in the League Cup final at Wembley 10 days ago. Last Wednesday’s 1-0 victory at London rivals West Ham keeps Chelsea 5 points clear at the top of the league, with a game in hand on second place Man City. As was the case before the first leg, Chelsea didn’t play at the weekend and arguably have had more time to prepare both physically and mentally for this huge Champions League matchup.

PSG have also been in good shape since the first leg at the Parc des Princes a few weeks ago as Les Parisiens have won 3 and drawn 1 in all competitions. This good run includes a victory over Monaco in the Coupe de France which means that PSG are now into the semi-finals. Saturday’s comfortable 4-1 home victory over Lens means that Laurent Blanc’s men have moved up to second in the table and are now just a point behing leaders Lyon.

Team News and Tactics

Chelsea have no real injury concerns except for Mikel who missed the first match, Mourinho confirms Matic will return to the squad after suspension domestically.

With this in mind, I expect Chelsea to name a similar team to the one that started in Paris 3 weeks ago. This means a 4-2-3-1 formation with Courtois to start in goals and Cahill and Terry likely to start at the heart of the back 4. In the full back positions Azpilicueta and Ivanovic, who have been so good this season, are expected to start. With Chelsea being at home, Mourinho may opt to push Fabregas further back in the midfield to partner Matic in front of the back 4. Oscar could come in for Ramires and be flanked by Willian and Hazard. The enigmatic Diego Costa will start up front and will hope to rile Laurent Blanc and his men some more.

PSG will be without Lucas Moura and Serge Aurier for the trip to Chelsea but Laurent Blanc has included former Newcastle man Yohann Cabaye in the squad for this game.

Blanc has a number of options for this game and may opt to change formation to accommodate both Ibrahimovic and Cavani playing up front or in a 3 alongside Lavezzi. Sirigu will start in between the posts with Marquinhos and Thiago Silva probably starting in front of him. Maxwell and Van der Wiel will start as full backs, the latter indefinitely due to the injury of Aurier. David Luiz looks set to start in midfield at his former home, and he will be partnered by Verratti and one of Thiago Motta or Blaise Matuidi. Lavezzi, Cavani and Ibrahimovic could be the selection up front, but if Blanc decides on a diamond formation, expect to see Pastore play behind Ibrahimovic and Cavani.

Danger Men

Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – Hazard has been brilliant for Chelsea this season and seems to be getting better and better. The hugely talented Belgian has scored and assisted his teammates on a lot of occasions this season and is often the spark that sets Chelsea off in big games. After Mourinho labelled the rough treatment that Hazard got in Paris as ‘Strange’ and ‘Surprising’, PSG’s defenders will have to wary of committing themselves against a player of this calibre.

Edinson Cavani (PSG) – Cavani performed brilliantly in the first leg against Chelsea, scoring a great header and almost notching what would have been a well-deserved second goal. Cavani often plays in the shadows of Ibrahimovic at PSG and his hard work and self-sacrifice often blurs what a superbly talented striker he is.

Prediction

PSG arrive in London knowing that they have to score but also know that they need to keep things tight at the other end to keep themselves in the game. Chelsea will want to win the tie by winning the second leg rather than relying on the away goals rule so they will be keen to score early. I expect a less cagey game than last time but feel as though PSG need to score first to have the best chance of progressing. Extra time and penalties are a real possibility here.

Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 PSG  (Chelsea to win in extra time)

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