Champions League: PSG vs. Chelsea One Year Later


View image |

In a repeat of last year, Chelsea FC will face off against PSG in the knock-off stages of the UEFA Champions League. A lot has changed for both teams since then, and Tuesday promises to bring some quality football to everyone that tunes in.

Last year’s encounter was a cagey, two-legged affair. The first leg was host to a terrible mistake by Terry only 4 minutes in, a prophetic own goal by a “midfielded” David Luiz, a totally ineffective Schurrle leading the line, and a controversial Hazard penalty that ended up being the difference. The reverse fixture was panicked for the blues, with the crucial 2nd goal scored with only 3 minutes left in the game by Demba Ba, who would leave only months later for Super Lig table-toppers, Besiktas. So what are the biggest differences between the blues of last year and this year?

Chelsea’s 7/11 (7/13 with subs)

Chelsea’s strongest line-up this season is indisputable. We all know it by heart, and have seen form dropping whenever it is tweaked. Mourinho has found his magic XI, and there are four differences from last year’s first leg. Mourinho also made two substitutions that night in Paris, both of whom no longer play for the club, meaning that almost 50% (46.15% to be exact) of the players he used last year no longer fit into his plans.

Courtouis vs. Cech: Probably the change with the least gap in class, but an important one nonetheless. Courtouis has effectively benched one of the best keepers in England, which is definitely no easy feat. He was also rested against Everton, and should be fresh for his attempt to do what Cech failed to do last year: keep a clean sheet in Paris.

Matic vs. David Luiz: Own goal aside, David Luiz actually put in one of the best performances of his short career as a midfielder that night in Paris. Maybe he was trying to show off for his future employers, and if he was, it worked. They bought him for a record-breaking fee just a few months later, and Mourinho used the funds to bring Fabregas and Diego Costa to the club. Matic has proved to be, in my opinion, one of the top 3 most important players for Chelsea. He has held that midfield with an authority that we can expect to see again on Tuesday. Regardless of Luiz’s great night last year, I doubt Chelsea will be missing his services with Matic around.

Ramires has been a decent deputy in Cesc’s absence

Cesc vs. Ramires: Talking about game-changing transfers, Cesc may well have been the best transfer of the season. Wasted by a Barcelona side that would often play him in the wings or as a false 9 (in other words, at the receiving end of the creativity), Mourinho brought him to the Bridge and brought the best out of him.

He has been so crucial to the fluidity and creativity of the team, it has been easy to notice his absence lately, both in performance and in the scores. While Ramires has been a decent deputy in Cesc’s recent absence, gone are the days of his famous chip over Valdes. Cesc’s style of passing and creating will be much more beneficial than Ramires’ direct play and pace on what is likely to be another cagey Tuesday night.

Costa vs. Schurrle: I mean… do we even really need to go into this? We have seen midfielders being asked to lead the line in times of desperation, even recently with Manchester City’s Milner making up for two injured No. 9s. It’s rare, but it happens. I cannot say, however, that I have ever seen it happen when the team has three fully fit forwards available.

Torres and Ba sat on the bench, while Eto’o was not even included in the squad, and Mourinho took one of his famous gambles with Schurrle leading the line. Needless to say, Chelsea’s latest player to leave the comfort of Chelsea’s bench for a shot in Germany does not stack up to the EPL’s current leading goal scorer. Paris was spoiled in last year’s first leg, but should, and will be, very weary of this year’s brand new threat.

Mou might regret that Lampard’s jersey is a lighter shade of blue nowadays

Cuadrado vs. Lampard & Remy vs. Torres: Last year, Mourinho made two changes: Torres for Schurrle (59′) and Lampard for Oscar (72′). They both came in at 1-1, and neither could stop Luiz’s own goal, Pastore’s late strike, or add to their own score. While Cuadrado is an exciting prospect, he has only played in 2 games, and does not stack up to the massive form that Lampard has been in. Mourinho will never admit it but, when he is alone Monday night in his Parisian hotel room, he will be thinking about his former talisman.

He will not, however, lose any sleep over Torres. While he seems to have picked up some form at his boyhood club, he never showed a glimpse of it to Mourinho, while Remy has shown good feet and goals in his few chances to perform. But regardless of which is in better form right now, I somehow doubt there will be any plans to sub a very well rested Costa.

With the exception of Lampard’s absence, it is clear that the changes Mourinho has made to Chelsea have been extremely positive, and it shows in the results. In contrast, PSG have had a much worse season than last year, and will be scrambling to meet the challenge that a near-perfect Chelsea side will bring to their doorsteps.

Next: Chelsea vs Everton - Three Talking Points