The FourFourTwo Preview: Chelsea vs PSG
“Why should we fear the Special One’s team when we have the only one?” read one of several brassy PSG slogans under the #PARISCHAMPIONSDREAM hashtag before Wednesday’s first leg. The problem Chelsea have ahead of the second is that there actually appear to be several. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was off song and, after 67 minutes, off the pitch at Parc des Princes, but Jose Mourinho’s side has rather more to worry about than whether the Swede makes an implausible recovery from his hamstring injury ahead of Tuesday’s return fixture.
- Chelsea 3-0 Stoke (Lge)
- PSG 3-1 Chelsea (Cup)
- Palace 1-0 Chelsea (Lge)
- Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal (Lge)
- Chelsea 2-0 Galatasaray (Cup)
- PSG 3-0 Reims (Lge)
- PSG 3-1 Chelsea (Cup)
- Nice 0-1 PSG (Lge)
- Lorient 0-1 PSG (Lge)
- PSG 2-0 Saint-Etienne (Lge)
Things didn’t seem too bad as the first leg entered injury time. A 2-1 deficit would have been no disaster for Chelsea, the main frustration being that they had mustered little attacking response to David Luiz’s unfortunate own goal. Then, Javier Pastore – who had not long since replaced Ezequiel Lavezzi, scorer of the game’s thrilling opener – waltzed in from the byline, slalomed past Cesar Azpilicueta and Frank Lampard and took aim inside Petr Cech’s near post, scoring the “joke” of a goal that now makes Mourinho’s job much tougher.
PSG have been relentless, if not constantly thrilling, all season – and this brought up 10 consecutive wins for Laurent Blanc’s men, added to on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Reims. On Wednesday night it hit home that, even beyond a misfiring pairing of Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, they’ve plenty of men for the big occasion. Lavezzi was unstoppable; Lucas Moura moved scintillatingly after replacing Ibrahimovic; the authority of Pastore’s coup de grace spoke for itself. Yohan Cabaye was no mean replacement for the variable Marco Verratti, either.
So what hope for Chelsea? Well, before Luiz put through his own net they had mustered a reasonable sense of authority – and were arguably unfortunate not to be ahead at the break after Eden Hazard had hit the post with a stupendous volley. PSG didn’t put in a 90-minute performance, and their ball retention inside their own half was fairly slack throughout – the visitors were presented with a number of good opportunities to make headway inside the final third. Mourinho will surely name one of his strikers, Samuel Eto’o, if he is back from injury for the second leg; if Chelsea can press PSG from the start, the smell of blood might not be too far away.
And there’s always history to fall back on. Two years ago, Chelsea hosted Napoli in a Round of 16 tie at Stamford Bridge, 3-1 down from the first leg. If your Spanish is up to it, you can always ask Lavezzi and Cavani what happened next.
This one is certainly in PSG’s hands now, though. Even if they can’t Dare To Zlatan on Tuesday, they’ll certainly have the courage to dream.
Player to watch: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
French media had made much of Hazard’s apparent need for a big Champions League performance ahead of the first leg – probably not out of genuine concern, although he was semi-convincingly linked with a move to PSG a couple of months ago and did little to douse the flames by conducting his post-match interview in the French side’s shirt. While a goal from the penalty spot didn’t exactly sock it to them, there were enough flickers from the Belgian to suggest that he can still be this tie’s game-changer. He left PSG’s deputy right-back Christophe Jallet with twisted blood a few times in the first half, and came inches from putting his side in front before the break. If Chelsea can get the ball to him quickly on Tuesday night, you sense that he'll get his chance this time around, too – and with those ahead of him struggling, they’ll probably need at least one moment of genius.
Mourinho got the pleasantries over and done with before the final whistle had even blown on Wednesday, disappearing from the touchline within seconds of Pastore’s goal. The Chelsea manager clearly felt he had been hamstrung in the lead-up to the game, justifying his selection of Andre Schürrle up top with: "I'm not happy with my strikers' performances, so I have to try things.” His sense of impotence was compounded by the errors from experienced players that led to all three of PSG’s goals. Chelsea have wobbled at an unfortunate time and Mourinho will have to reassume control – and responsibility – when the French side visit.
During half-time at the Parc des Princes, Laurent Blanc asked his team whether they believed they were at the same level as Chelsea. They answered him emphatically. Like Mourinho, the PSG boss doesn’t mind dabbling in the occasional bit of provocation by media, but you don’t get the impression he’ll be easily cowed by anything Jose has to say before this one.
Facts and figures
- Chelsea conceded more goals in the first leg of this tie than they had in their previous 7 CL matches (2).
- PSG have lost just one of their last 17 CL matches (W12 D4 L1).
- Away from home, PSG have lost only 1 of their last 8 games in the CL (W6 D1 L1). They have scored in all 8 of these matches.
- No side has scored with a higher proportion of their shots than PSG (28.4%) this season in the CL.
PSG have scored in 17 successive CL matches, netting at least twice in 13 of these games.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
A Chelsea striker scores, and so does Hazard, but Lavezzi and Cavani won’t be part of the same failure twice. 2-1 to the home side, and a 4-3 aggregate defeat.