For the second year in a row, the second leg of the Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League takes place between these two sides at Stamford Bridge. Although the French champions have the edge over their opponents, their English counterparts cannot be taken lightly.
While one team has been rampaging to the title they also won last season, the other has fallen drastically short of expectations. PSG need just 1 win to seal the Ligue 1 title – with 8 matches to spare – while Chelsea are finding it difficult to qualify for the Europa League spots, forget the Champions League.
Both teams had the luxury of resting players before this match, albeit for entirely different reasons. Chelsea rested their in-form striker Diego Costa in the game against Stoke over the weekend, while PSG started their superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the bench in their league game against Montpellier, reflecting on the importance of this tie for both clubs.
Guus Hiddink vs Laurent Blanc
It is too close a call between Blanc and Hiddink both as players and as managers of their respective clubs. The Frenchman is relatively new to the managerial world, while the Dutchman is a well-traveled one. This does not take away from the fact that Blanc has had a trophy-laden career as a manager so far, and is currently leading one of the most in-form teams across all of Europe. Although Hiddink is only in temporary charge of Chelsea, his record has been impeccable – his only defeat in the two spells as manager was the 2-1 loss to PSG at Parc des Princes. Blanc, on the other hand, has been at PSG for 3 years now and has won every honour that France has to offer, but is yet to bask in the glory of a European win with the club. With both teams boasting of virtually unlimited finances and equally fickle ownership, failure to progress in this tournament will not be taken lightly by the respective authorities.
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Same old, same old for Hiddink
With things stabilising at the club after the turbulent few months during Jose Mourinho’s reign, the mood seems to have changed on the pitch and in the stands. A positive run of results in the league has had this effect on the players and fans, which will only be boosted by progression in the Champions League.
Not only the away goal, but also their performance against a strong PSG side away from home would have helped improve the morale in the dressing room before this match. Although they were unlucky to concede the second goal, they now know that they have to score at least a goal to progress to the quarter finals.
Not much has changed in terms of the squad or even the formation since Mourinho left, but the Dutchman seems to have got the best out of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas – both players who were allegedly unhappy with the Portuguese before he was sacked. In retrospect, Hiddink has nothing to lose. He knows he is leaving Chelsea at the end of this season and any trophy he adds to the Blues’ cabinet will be a bonus.
Blanc looking to keep momentum going
With another Ligue 1 title almost in the bag and a cup semi-final as well as the League Cup final to look forward to, PSG are on the cusp of making history if they win the Champions League this time. That and the fact that a failure to win a European trophy will not be looked at kindly by the owners – despite their consistent domestic success.
With no real challenge in the Ligue 1 title defence, they could be easily forgiven for being complacent come Wednesday. However, the experience in the squad and the manager himself knows that any away tie in the Champions League is a potential banana skin. Although a 0-0 score would see them through, it is virtually guaranteed that this will be anything but a goalless draw. Chelsea have to score and PSG can score with all the quality at their disposal, making this a fixture that is mouth-watering for neutrals and fans alike.
Diego Costa vs David Luiz
They used to be former teammates under Mourinho, but there will be anything but camaraderie between them when these two meet on the pitch in the upcoming fixture. Both, known for occasional outbursts, are still equally adept at changing the game for their respective sides on their day.
The current Brazilian and the former Brazilian international will not give an inch to each other, be it aerially or on the ground. Luiz is not known for his positional sense but makes up for it with his pace. Costa, on the other hand, has pace and a knowledge of how to work spaces between defenders to his credit. Armed with an exceptional sense of when to time a tackle, Luiz will have to be wary of the Spanish international throughout the night.
Marco Verratti vs John Obi Mikel
It is common knowledge in football that most matches are won by the team that dominates the midfield.
Mikel has been the in-form player for Chelsea in the post-Mourinho era, and has been surprisingly effective on the offensive front too. It is, after all, his strike that gave Chelsea a crucial away goal in the last leg. Verratti, although yet to open his account for the season, has been influential in his side’s attacking plays, feeding Angel Di Maria and Ibrahimovic with passes that ultimately lead to goals.
Mikel will have to be wary of the young Italian’s pace, not exactly the Nigerian’s strong suit. What he does lack in pace, he makes up for by his exceptional positional sense and strong tackling.
Branislav Ivanovic vs Zlatan Ibrahimovic
No mention of PSG is complete without the mention of the legendary Swede. Yet again, he is in sensational form in the league and has the ability to trouble the best defenders across Europe.
The absence of Kurt Zouma has meant that Ivanovic has taken his place in the centre of defence. It also means that Chelsea have arguably one of the slowest pairing of central defenders in Europe. The lurking presence of John Terry who might start in place of Cahill if he passes a fitness test, will not help in the pace department either. Granted that Ibrahimovic isn’t the quickest, but the likes of Di Maria and Edinson Cavani often wander into the central area of the pitch and may trouble the Chelsea centre-halves.
- Defending set pieces.
- Attacking down the wings.
- Coming back from losing positions.
- Allowing opponents to create chances.
- Stopping direct shots on goal.
- Defending attacks down the wings.
- Finishing scoring chances.
- Counter attacks.
- Protecting a lead.
- Avoiding offside traps.
- Stopping opponents from creating chances.
- Defending against pacy wingers.