After nearly a month, the Champions League first knockout round resumes with Chelsea welcoming Paris Saint-Germain to Stamford Bridge for the second leg of their Champions League clash. Last season’s meeting in this round between these two sides saw Chelsea advance on away goals after a 3-3 score on aggregate after PSG won the first leg in Paris by a 3-1 score. Just like this season, the second leg was at Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea won this fixture 2-0 with a late goal from Demba Ba assuring the Blues passage to the quarterfinals.
That’s a far cry from last season’s matchup between these two teams, where Chelsea avoided defeat in Paris and left with a 1-1 draw, but a vital away goal. Branislav Ivanovic and Edinson Cavani were the scorers in that match, though it’s hard to deny that Chelsea were lucky that PSG didn’t score a second or even a third. Chelsea will be pleased to have the slight advantage of an away goal, but will be wary because this tie is far from over.
Going into this match, Laurent Blanc’s side is in a much different place than they were a month ago. Before the first leg, PSG weren’t on a great run of form, slipping to fourth in Ligue 1, and you wondered if they were going to be able to name 18 players from their first team after a number of players limped off in a 2-2 draw with SM Caen.
This time, with the exception of one or two players, PSG don’t have the same injury concerns, and their form has picked up. A win over Lens last Saturday briefly took them to the top of the table, and PSG have won 2 out of 3 matches since that 1-1 draw to Chelsea; their only blemish being a 0-0 draw to a Monaco side that is showing their qualities defensively.
PSG will need to have their best squad ready for this match, because unlike last season, they visit Stamford Bridge knowing that they must score to overcome the away goal and the 1-1 score line. That’s not the easiest thing to do against a Jose Mourinho side that loves to counterattack, but PSG will take comfort in how they were able to dominate the second half of the first leg, though they probably should have scored more.
For Chelsea, Jose Mourinho’s men should be more than ready for this match. Two Sundays ago, Chelsea won the first trophy of the season, beating Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley to win the Capital One Cup, before following up with a hard-fought win against a West Ham side that were more than up for the fight.
Not only are the Blues coming off the back of a string of good results, they’ve also had a week to prepare ahead of this match against PSG. Being eliminated from the FA Cup is never a good thing, but Chelsea’s elimination at the hands of Bradford City has lessened the fixture congestion on a relatively small squad that has looked a bit fatigued over the last two months.
However, the Capital One Cup win seems to have given the Blues a renewed energy, as shown in their match against West Ham. It’s said that champions always have one match in that season where they can look back and say, “that’s where we won the title,” and the Hammers may have given them that match. Chelsea had to dig their heels in and grind out a 1-0 win against tough opposition, and it seemed that the cup win had the desired effect – creating a tight-knit group of players fighting for each other, which was a staple of the first Jose Mourinho stint in charge of Chelsea.
The Blues will need to summon that spirit of unity to beat a PSG side that are full of confidence and intend to take revenge for being ousted last season at this same stage of the Champions League and at this venue. However, this venue isn’t the easiest place to play, with only four teams this season managing to get a result from Stamford Bridge: Manchester City and Burnley in the Premier League, Bradford City in the FA Cup, and FC Schalke 04 in the Champions League.
That’s the task awaiting PSG, and it’s one that they must conquer if they truly wish to join the elite European sides. But Chelsea are not the sort of team that will make it easy, and having to attack a Jose Mourinho side away from home can have disastrous results for the visitors if they don’t perform on the night.