For Edinson Cavani, Chelsea have become somewhat of a bogey team.
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Before signing for Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2013, Cavani was an integral part of Walter Mazzarri’s fine Napoli side which came within 15 minutes of knocking the Blues out in 2012 in the last 16.
The Uruguayan scored the Partenopei’s third in a 3-1 first-leg victory at the Stadio San Paolo, prompting the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas, only for Chelsea to then turn the tie around in the second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard’s 75th minute penalty secured a 3-1 scoreline to send the game into extra-time before Branislav Ivanovic claimed the winner. Chelsea would then go on to lift the trophy that year.
Last season, in the blue and red of PSG, Cavani’s side again were leading the first leg 3-1, only for the Premier League side to fightback and secure a 2-0 victory in London and advance on away goals.
The two sides have been drawn together this term, and again Cavani’s team will be hosting the first leg and ahead of tonight’s match, the 28-year-old spoke to Sport360° about PSG’s chances in Europe this season, Chelsea and whether or not he gets on with Zlatan Ibrahimovic…
How successful do you see this PSG team becoming?
There has to be a belief that we can win the Champions League this season. When you look at the players we have here and the experience at the club we must believe it is possible.
I knew when I joined I was part of an exciting project, and of course the Champions League is a big part of that.
Chelsea are obviously in great form in England, they are a team you must be familiar with?
We are very aware that Jose Mourinho teams are very hard to beat. They will be compact, they will make space very hard to find, and you know there will not be many chances, especially when we play in London.
You know when you are playing teams of this quality you might get one or two good chances in 90 minutes, that is why it is so important that we take them.
What about their attack?
We have studied them, and they are a very patient team. The first game in Paris I expect them to be defensive, but we cannot allow that to give us a sense of security.
They can spend much time defending, then with players with the quality of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa they can hurt you in a second. We can’t lose focus, and it is the job of everybody to defend.
You played against them in the Champions League for Napoli in 2011/12 and came so very close to knocking them out. What do you remember from that tie?
I scored in the game in Italy and obviously we went into the second game in a good position. It just shows the margins at this level are so small. Chelsea looked like they were out, and in the end it is a season they end up winning the Champions League.
Of course, it is important to get off to a good start in the first game, but we have seen so many great European comebacks over recent years that you must never take a lead for granted or give up no matter what the score.
How is your relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic? How do you feel when you read such stories about how you supposedly don’t get on?
It is frustrating to clarify these lies consistently. The truth with myself and Zlatan is I like him, I respect him, and I know I can learn from one of the best strikers of the last 10 years. There has never been a problem between us, and we just wish the media would report the facts and not create a circus.
At PSG you have frequently been positioned on the flanks. Where do you feel is your best position on the field and why?
I have never made a secret that I prefer to play centrally, it is where I feel I can get most goals from. At the same time though I also understand that you need to make sacrifices for the team.
Before leaving Napoli, did you have any offers from other clubs? If so, what made you choose PSG?
There were other offers, but as soon as the project at Paris was explained to me along with the ambition of the club, it was an easy decision for me. As a player I was and am very motivated to win the biggest trophies, and after hearing what the club had to say it was clear I could do that in Paris.
England is a country which is often said that would suit your style of play. Can you ever see yourself playing there?
I have great respect for the Premier League, for the teams, and the great players there. It is a league that I really admire, and Luis (Suarez) used to tell me many great things about it.
At the moment there are important trophies I can win with Paris, so it would not be sensible to talk about these things. My only focus is success this season.
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