Who: Chelsea FC vs. Paris Saint-Germain FC
What: UEFA Champions League, Quarterfinals (Leg 2)
Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, UK
When: Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Stamford Bridge
Time: 19:45 GMT/2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
TV: Fox Sports 1, Fox Soccer 2Go (US); UTV, ITV 1, STV Scotland (UK)
Radio: SiriusXM FC Sirius 94 (Internet 94), BBC Radio 5 Live
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -120, Paris Saint-Germain +330, Draw +260
Total: Over 2½ +105, Under 2½ -125
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.83, Paris Saint-Germain 4.30, Draw 3.60
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 2.05, Under 2½ 1.80
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 5/6, Paris Saint-Germain 33/10, Draw 13/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 21/20, Under 2½ 4/5
First Half: Chelsea -½ +140, Paris Saint-Germain +½ -180
Chelsea +140, Paris Saint-Germain +350, Draw +120
Over 1½ +200, Under 1½ -275
Odds To Advance: Paris Saint-Germain -400, Chelsea +275
Odds To Win Champions League: Paris Saint-Germain 7/1, Chelsea 20/1
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -125,Paris Saint-Germain +300, Draw +230
Total: Over 2½ +110, Under 2½ -119
Odds To Win Champions League: Paris Saint-Germain 8/1, Chelsea 18/1
Source: Sportsbook.com (Curacao, Netherlands Antilles)
Whether or not the second leg of Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain’s UEFA Champions League quarterfinal series will be one to remember probably will come down to the question of which team can score first Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.
Should French Ligue 1 leaders PSG—which won the opening leg (3-1) last Wednesday at home at Parc des Princes in Paris—be the first ones to get on the board, then the Blues will suddenly be down 4-1 aggregate and pretty much dead in the water in the renowned tournament with the sacred theme song that we all will hear in the waiting room to heaven.
But if Chelsea can somehow be the team that puts the ball in the net first, a 3-2 aggregate score with a valuable road goal could then be the result, and the Blues will suddenly find themselves in a position where another successive goal will change the entire tone of the series and ignite the impatiently waiting and nervous West London crowd.
PSG manager Laurent Blanc and Les Rouge-et-Bleu will be without big gun Zlatan Ibrahimovic (25 goals, Ligue 1) here, as the dangerous Swedish striker injured his hamstring in last week’s opening leg. The French visitors' roster is absolutely loaded, though, and Edinson Cavani (14 goals), Ezequiel Lavezzi (seven goals) and Lucas Moura (nine assists) are very capable of picking up Ibrahimovic’s sizable slack.
Blanc also rested the vast majority of his starters over the weekend in preparation for this massive match, so players like Thiago Motta, Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti—as well as new signee Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle United)—will all be ready to do whatever it takes to get Les Parisiens to Les Semis.
And you thought Chelsea was deep.
Scoring on Ligue 1 leaders PSG (24-7-1) and goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu will be no easy task for the Blues, especially with the much-talked-about problems at the striker position. Chelsea and manager Jose Mourinho will definitely need Samuel Eto’o (eight goals, EPL) to return from the hamstring injury he sustained against Arsenal to help spark the attack in this game.
Without the 32-year-old Cameroonian, the Blues will be forced to either go with Fernando Torres (four goals), Demba Ba or maybe even Andre Schurrle again, whom The Special One creatively used up top in the team’s 4-2-3-1 tactical formation to somewhat limited effect in the opening leg.
Chelsea (22-6-5) will look to both its attacking and central midfield for offense here in this do-or-die game, and Eden Hazard (14 goals), Willian, Oscar (eight goals), Schurrle (seven goals), Frank Lampard (six goals) and possibly David Luiz will all need to be at their very best against a PSG defense led by captain Thiago Motta, Maxwell and former Blues player Alex.
The Blues' own steady defense—bolstered by the back four of Cesar Azpilicueta, captain John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and goalkeeper Petr Cech—like Les Rouge-et-Bleu, is the best in their league right now (24 goals allowed) and maybe the only way the 2012 Champions League winners can find a way to get through to the semifinals here is with a clean sheet.
And it can be done, as in five home matches against French clubs in the tournament, Chelsea has only allowed one goal, so, a required shutout is certainly in the historical realm of possibility. Hopefully? Maybe? Hey, we’re begging here.
Chasing a 3-1 deficit heading home for the second leg, many Blues fans have longingly compared Chelsea’s situation here against PSG to that of the 3-1 deficit against Napoli two years ago, but that team had a magical little thing named Didier Drogba, and this mix of Little Ponies and Old Horses will need to get the majority of the breaks, the crowd jacked as a contributing force, and the first score to have any chance of moving on.
The Blues will have to find a way to outscore PSG by two goals without the services of midfielder Ramires, who is suspended after receiving a third yellow card in the first leg as well as cup-tied midfielders Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah—the latter of whom scored in his first Chelsea start in a 3-0 win over Stoke City in English Premier League play on Saturday.
And Mourinho will again likely have little to work with on his bench—especially when compared to Blanc—with Torres and Demba Ba, John Obi Mikel, Nathan Ake and Tomas Kalas potentially again being among his substitutes. The underrated roster depth the French champions possess could end up being the big difference.
So what happens? Chasing two goals, Chelsea will surely push the pace here—theoretically good for the over—looking for that aforementioned crucial first goal, and, with the lofty expectations and apprehensive energy at The Bridge, the Blues should get it and set up a very exciting hour or so of soccer to follow. We must be entertained.
Only really good teams don’t lose in West London to Chelsea, and, this PSG club is a really good team—even without leader Ibrahimovic (10 Champions League goals) and a totally healthy Cavani.
Somehow, with their embarrassment of midfield riches, Les Rouge-et-Bleu will score a goal, maybe even two here, and strike yet another blow at a Blues fanbase still reeling from recent rough road losses to Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and this upstart PSG club.
If Chelsea only had a bit more scoring talent still at their disposal like the aforementioned Drogba or Daniel Sturridge or Everton loanee Romelu Lukaku or Juan Mata, the Blues could possibly squeeze out two or three goals at SW6 in this situation while shutting a talented side like PSG out, but, quite simply, they just don’t right now.
Rebuilding usually means that only half of the house is done, and when only half of the house is done, it’s very hard to have the neighbors over for barbecue and a nice swim in a waterless pool. Believe it. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
As far as attacking this game from a gambling standpoint, considering the situation, both sides as well as the over and the under (perceived pace) will be subject to too many possibilities, depending on whichever team scores first and how late in the game.
And with PSG (6-3-2 last 11 Champions League matches) being able to sit back and concentrate on defense because of that precious third goal in the first leg, a bet on this one, for me, would come down to how quickly one thinks Chelsea could score that first goal, assuming they can/will with this group of players. But it’s just too hard to envision a club that’s allowed so few goals in this tournament like PSG has suddenly allowing three with Sirigu in goal in this critical situation.
In short, this Ligue 1 squad truly believes it can become European champions, and if anything provides value here, it may be in taking them (PSG) as the big underdogs (+330) on the three-way line...but that would be a virtually impossible thing for any true Blues fan to do so for such an important game—Bluesphemy, of sorts.
The only time these two clubs have met at Stamford Bridge was in 2004/05 in Champions League group-stage play in a game that ended in a 0-0 draw.
Chelsea’s schedule resumes next Sunday (April 13) with a Premier League date at Liberty Stadium against 15th-placed Swansea City (NBC Sports Network, 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT), followed a week later (April 20) by a fixture against now 20th-placed Sunderland at Stamford Bridge. And it’s safe to say now that both are must wins for Mourinho and company.
And if you’re just tuning in, you definitely picked the right time, brother. This next month seems like a bit of an uphill battle, but Chelsea and its fans are used to that reality by now. Bring on the monsters. But the Blues will really need to start quickly scoring some goals in bunches to help battle the boogeyman.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 1, Paris Saint-Germain 1
>Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11