Chelsea will put their Premier League disappointment behind them as they travel to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. The two sides have met just once before in the competition, during Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2004.
The Blues were held to a 0-0 draw in London in their first group stage fixture, before beating the home side 3-0 in Paris. John Terry, one of the goalscorers on that night, is almost certain to start this match despite his unfortunate own goal at the weekend, but there will be a few players whose places are in doubt.
Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta were praised for their effort by Mourinho after Saturday’s defeat. He told reporters, per the BBC:
Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry - they perform in the sun, on small pitches, on big pitches, against aggressive teams, not aggressive teams, possession teams and not possession teams. They perform every game from day one to last day. But you have other players who are fantastic in some games and they disappear in others.
Although he declined to name names, it seems likely that David Luiz is one of the players who will disappear from Chelsea. Luiz is a fan favourite despite his occasionally wayward approach to his duties, but it seems that Mourinho is not impressed by his form against the so-called “small teams”.
However, this match is one that Luiz will thrive on, and Mourinho would be cutting off his nose to spite his face if he left him out of the starting lineup. He will most likely be joined in the holding role by Ramires, whose domestic ban does not extend to European competition, although a yellow card in this tie would see him suspended for the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Oscar was held up as Mourinho’s favourite attacker at the beginning of the season, and his importance to the squad was cemented with the January sale of Juan Mata. A dip in form may have given the Special One cause for concern, but the Brazilian should still find himself in the starting XI at the Parc des Princes.
PSG have been pursuing Eden Hazard, with a report from Le 10 Sport (h/t Samuel Stevens The Independent) indicating that they plan to bid £60 million for the Belgian in the summer. Mourinho has named his price as more than double that figure, but the speculation should give Hazard some extra motivation to be at his best.
With Andre Schurrle’s form excellent only in patches, Willian should complete the attacking trio. The Brazilian’s strength and pace on the right complement Hazard on the left and will make life difficult for PSG’s defence.
The majority of Chelsea’s problems so far this season have come from the woeful form of their strikers. Samuel Eto’o is unlikely to be fit for the trip to Paris, leaving Fernando Torres as the first-choice frontman. Torres has been, to put it kindly, ineffective, and he will need to find the sort of form he produced during the latter stages of the Blues’ triumphant 2012 campaign if he is to have an impact on the tie.
PSG are unbeaten in 28 European home games, a record stretching back to 2006. Their free-spending since the 2011 takeover by the Qatari royal family is reminiscent of Chelsea in 2003, although Financial Fair Play will restrict their financial outlay moving forward.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on a fine run of form and unless the Blues can kill the game off early, the double threat posed by him and Edinson Cavani could prove too much for them in Paris.
Records and statistics courtesy of UEFA.
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