Chelsea play Paris St Germain in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday night. Here we break down some of the big talking points ahead of the clash at Parc des Princes.
SECONDS OUT, ROUND THREE
Chelsea won the 2014 quarter-final tie on away goals, PSG prevailed at the last-16 stage by the same method 12 months ago. Chelsea play away first for the third time in a row, knowing an away goal at Parc des Princes could be crucial ahead of the March 9 return at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard and the masked Diego Costa will be key for the Blues.
John Terry has been ruled out by a hamstring injury sustained against Newcastle – joining Kurt Zouma (knee)
in being absent – so Chelsea have lost their first-choice centre back pairing. Branislav Ivanovic will have to move into the centre of defence, having underperformed for much of this season at right-back. The absence of Nemanja Matic (suspended) means John Obi Mikel’s role is even more important.
CONTRASTING FORTUNES OF CHAMPIONS
PSG are 24 points clear at the top of Ligue 1; Chelsea are 12th, 20 points behind leaders Leicester. The Blues’ decline may have been sharp, but it is in part down to the competitive nature of the Premier League. But can that competition benefit English clubs in Europe? Recent seasons suggest it has been a hindrance. Chelsea’s European Cup win in 2012 was a “blip” the Blues hope can be repeated to ensure they play Champions League football next term.
Serge Aurier has been suspended after making disparaging remarks about PSG boss Laurent Blanc and some
team-mates, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The question is whether this is one rogue critic or if there are wider fractures in the team. The announcement Marco Verratti has extended his stay at Parc des Princes, along with Blanc, suggests the former.
MATUIDI V MIKEL IN THE ENGINE ROOM
Blaise Matuidi is one of the more underrated players in PSG’s starting XI, mainly due to his main qualities being in work-rate and energy. John Obi Mikel will sit at the base of Chelsea’s midfield but has a real fight on his hands both containing Verratti and Javier Pastore and matching Matuidi. He’ll need help.