PSG Still Have Too Much for Chelsea Even Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistApril 7, 2014

Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, left, wins a header in front of PSG's Edinson Cavani during the Champions League quarterfinal first leg soccer match between PSG and Chelsea, at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, Wednesday, April 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
Christophe Ena

The UEFA Champions League quarter-final second legs take place in midweek, with Chelsea facing an uphill battle to fight back against French opponents Paris Saint-Germain.

After an even first half in the first leg at Parc des Princes, PSG took command with two further second-half goals to lead 3-1 ahead of the return fixture at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Michel Euler

With regards to Chelsea's comeback hopes, it looks like a tale of two strikers, with both teams waiting on the fitness of their first-choice forwards. Zlatan Ibrahimovic may be a far bigger loss for PSG in terms of his goals and ability, but the French side still have enough in reserve to fight through the tie without him to take their place in the semi-finals.

Jose Mourinho is hoping Samuel Eto'o returns from a hamstring strain in time to feature from the start, in another vote of no confidence toward Fernando TorresMirror Football's Martin Lipton reports that Eto'o will start if he trains on Monday, having missed the last three games.

#Stats #Chelsea's top 3 players for shots on target: Hazard (35), Eto'o (31) & Lampard (28) -

— Chelsea Stats (@ChelseaStats) April 7, 2014

The Cameroonian has managed 11 goals between Premier League and Champions League games this seasonhardly enough to worry the very toughest defences around, but certainly enough for him to be considered Chelsea's outstanding striking threat. The experiment of playing with Andre Schurrle didn't work in Paris, and Mourinho looks to be leaning toward any option but Torres, as per his quotes in the Mirror:

I wanted Eto'o to be on the bench on Saturday and play 15 or 20 minutes but he was not fit enough. Maybe I will pick him. But to risk a player, you need to have minimum conditions to take that risk. If you think he's going to be out after 10 minutes of the game, you can't take that risk. If there is a minimum of conditions of risk, then yes. If we can have everybody available who can give us a chance to score goals, then let's do that.

Despite the obvious talents of the likes of Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard in the attacking midfield line, Chelsea do need a forward in place who can link up well, provide a penalty-area threat and run in behind the PSG back line.

Eto'o in training with Chelsea on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's Champions League match
Eto'o in training with Chelsea on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's Champions League matchMatt Dunham

Without Eto'o, it is likely they will struggle to find that kind of penetration with regularity, forcing greater reliance on the individualism of Hazard or the late runs from the second line from Oscar, Frank Lampard or whoever else plays in the centre of the park.

PSG themselves are almost certainly without striker Ibrahimovic, but have more impressive options to turn to at centre-forward, including Uruguayan attacker Edinson Cavani.

In the first leg, he was awkward, bumbling and clearly off the pace with his touch and control, having struggled for form since returning form injury, but he still managed to score at the weekend, opening the scoring in a 3-0 win over Reims.

Stat in L'Equipe - minutes per goal for Edinson Cavani when playing with Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 199. And when playing without him: 43.

— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) April 7, 2014

Midfielder Blaise Matuidi acknowledges Zlatan's absence is key, but not insurmountable, as per—and he's right in that regard.

Cavani will likely play as a striker and remains a big threat in the air and with his hold-up play, while the likes of Lucas Moura, Javier Pastore or first-leg hero Ezequiel Lavezzi buzz around him. PSG can also afford to play on the counter, utilising the pace of Brazilian Lucas Moura to good effect especially, knowing that they have a two-goal cushion to protect themselves.

It will take a mammoth effort from Chelsea to get themselves back into this tie. They are capable of scoring twice, no doubt about it, but PSG also have the attacking ability to do damage themselves.

Pastore's moment of genius at the end of the first leg might turn out to be enough to tilt the scales PSG's way, highlighting again the importance and the value of the French side having greater attacking depth than their English rivals.