Breaking Down PSG's Champions League Opponents Chelsea

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: Thiago Silva of PSG in action between Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second leg match between Chelsea FC and Paris Saint-Germain FC at Stamford Bridge stadium on March 11, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Laurent Blanc must be pinching himself.

Paris Saint-Germain could have faced any of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League. Instead, they'll play Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho said it only last week when his team defeated Porto to top Group G: Everyone wants to face them right now.

For PSG, the last-16 draw means a third season running when they have been paired with the Premier League champions, and the two clubs have been evenly matched in that time. Indeed, the past four meetings between PSG and Chelsea have seen both sides win once, with the other two ending in draws.

When we look at goals scored over those games, there's still no separating them. Chelsea and PSG have each scored five times against each other.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 11: John Terry of Chelsea argues with David Luiz of PSG during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16, second leg match between Chelsea FC and Paris Saint-Germain FC at Stamford Bridge stadium on March 11, 2015 in London, England. (
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

It'll be 12 months on from when they last faced each other in Europe last term, but the gulf in class in the present is clear to see. Chelsea have regressed significantly since they were knocked out in the last 16 of the Champions League by PSG in March.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

The deficiencies that Blanc's side showed in Chelsea's team haven't been addressed, and the Blues have suffered a spectacular fall from grace.

They sit just one point above the Premier League relegation zone, and by the time they make the trip to Paris in February for the the first leg of this tie, Mourinho may well have departed as manager.

All the while, PSG are running away with Ligue 1 and with the likes of Angel Di Maria now among their number, will have every reason for feeling confident against Chelsea.

Join us as we assess the threat Chelsea will pose to PSG's Champions League hopes.

Euro vision

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09:  Diego Costa of Chelsea watches as Ruben Neves of FC Porto controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League match between Chelsea and FC Porto at Stamford Bridge on December 9, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Ca
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Despite Chelsea's struggles this term, their form in Europe has been more like the team we know.

Group G was relatively uncomplicated in comparison to some, but given what we have seen from Chelsea in the Premier League, they made light work of it (even if things did come down to the final match to seal their fate as group winners).

Leaking goals at home in the Premier League, Chelsea conceded just three times in six matches against Porto, Dynamo Kiev and Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Two of those goals came in their away defeat to Porto, as Mourinho's men kept four clean sheets en route to finishing top.

Save for that shaky display in the Estadio do Dragao, Chelsea have been the dominant team in every game they have played in the Champions League this season.

Had it not been for some bad luck in front of goal away to Kiev, they would have taken all three points instead of a draw, while the 2-1 scoreline in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge didn't do them justice.

Chelsea's Portuguese Head Coach Jose Mourinho reacts during the UEFA Champions League, group G, football match between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Chelsea FC at the Sammy Ofer Stadium, in the Israeli coastal city of Haifa, on November 24, 2015.  / AFP / JACK GUE
JACK GUEZ/Getty Images

Thrashing Tel-Aviv 4-0 in both games against the Israelis was about par for what we would expect.

The point is, Chelsea have looked a stronger side in Europe than they have domestically. They haven't been perfect, but Porto and Dynamo Kiev did ask questions at times, and they came through it.

Now we're into the knockout rounds, the Champions League becomes cup football. And for teams struggling like Chelsea have all season, that can sometimes work in their favour.

They're playing for results, not points, and the entire perspective changes. It is game-by-game, and the pressure of climbing the table disappears. It's for this reason that underdogs are no strangers to pulling off cup shocks.

Eden Hazard

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard warms up before kick off of the UEFA Champions League Group G football match between Chelsea and Porto at Stamford Bridge in London on December 9, 2015.   / AFP / GLYN KIRK        (Photo credit should read GLYN KIR
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Chelsea's disappointing season has been best showcased by the dismal form of Eden Hazard. Without the Belgian on top form, Chelsea have lacked any cutting edge, and the goals have dried up.

In terms of an attacking threat, Chelsea look a spent force.

Two seasons ago, Hazard was identified as the main threat in this Chelsea team, and PSG targeted him. The same happened last term, when Hazard came in for some rough treatment in midfield.

PSG will no doubt target him again, but the sad truth is that Hazard's threat is nothing like we should expect.

In fact, we can talk about Chelsea's better form on the continent, but Hazard's blown hot-and-cold regardless of the competition he has played.

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (C) attends a training session on the eve of a UEFA Champions League, group G football match against Porto at Chelsea's training ground in Cobham, south west London on December 8, 2015. 
AFP PHOTO / GLYN KIRK / AFP
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

He hasn't scored a goal in any competition for Chelsea since May and, despite some encouraging performances at times, doesn't look like he'll be recovering anytime soon.

The worry is that Hazard no longer looks committed to the Chelsea cause. Against Leicester City this week, he was too quick to write himself out of the game with a hip injury after 30 minutes.

When he came off, Chelsea looked a better team going forward. His replacement, Pedro, also earned the assist for Loic Remy's consolation goal, providing the sort of cross from out wide that isn't in Hazard's repertoire.

Lack of pace

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 14:  Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City is tackled by John Terry of Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Chelsea at the King Power Stadium on December14, 2015 in Leicester, United Kingdom.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Where PSG can really get at Chelsea is by exploiting the lack of pace in this team.

It's no secret—almost every club in the Premier League has done it at some point this season. It started with Jefferson Montero on the opening day of the season for Swansea City; Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy continued it for Leicester on Monday.

Get at this Chelsea team with runners, and they struggle to cope. Through the middle or out wide, it doesn't matter.

PSG have the personnel to do that as well. Angel Di Maria, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Lucas Moura—the list of players in midfield and attack who can exploit Chelsea is as impressive as it is devastating.

Chelsea have looked laboured this term and fear players with the sort of qualities of those just named. Throw the talents of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani into the mix, and you get the point.

Players with pace and skill pull defenders out of position, and when that happens, Chelsea collapse.

The case (or lack thereof) for the strikers

Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa (L) and Chelsea's French striker Loic Remy exchange words during the UEFA Champions League, group G, football match between Chelsea and Maccabi Tel Aviv at Stamford Bridge in London on September 16, 201
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

With a defence marshaled by Thiago Silva, PSG have a fearsome back line. To test that, opponents need physical strikers willing to break the hard yards and ask questions.

Right now, Chelsea don't have one.

Diego Costa's form this calendar year—let alone this season—has been disastrous, while getting in among them isn't Loic Remy's style at all.

It's probably best we don't mention Radamel Falcao.

That goal threat isn't there from Chelsea's strikers, which only amplifies the struggles of Hazard even more.

Chelsea's most potent threat in front of goal in the Champions League has been Willian, who has scored five times already this term. Four of those goals have been free-kicks, though, which outlines Chelsea's problems when it comes to scoring from open play.

Whichever way you look at it, PSG must be seen as the overwhelming favourites in this tie. It will take a monumental effort from Chelsea between now and February to change that.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes