Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea will be squaring off once again in the Champions League group stages, with with sides winning one of the past two encounters thanks to away goals. The Saints head into the first leg in much better spirits following some brilliant performances this season, but weekend’s hammering of Newcastle gives the Blues reason for optimism as well.
Boasting a 24-point advantage in the hunt for the fourth straight league trophy, Paris Saint-Germain can be forgiven for taking their foot off gas in domestic championship and this is a perfect scenario for Laurent Blanc’s men to finally launch an assault on the Champions League trophy. The Saints have been quite unfortunate not to make it to the final stages of Europe’s elite competition in recent years, having been eliminated in the quarter-finals three times in a row, with Chelsea winning on away goals two years ago. PSG managed to get revenge on the Blues by defeating them last season and they will now be meeting the Premier League holders third time in a row. Judging by team’s excellent displays this term, this is probably a perfect opportunity to go far in the competition, with Lauent Blanc’s charges recording 16 straight wins on all fronts before the second string side failed to beat Lille at the weekend, with the focus clearly on the Chelsea game.
Full-back Serge Aurier has been suspended by the club for insulting the coach and some of his teammates, but Marco Verratti has returned into action, but he will probably start on the bench.
The same goes for Javier Pastore, who also lacks match fitness, but Thiago Silva, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adrien Rabiot will be recalled.
There is not much Chelsea can do now to make this season a success as some shocking Premier League performances have seen the Stamford Bridge outfit slip to bottom half of the standings. Nevertheless, club’s decision to sack Jose Mourinho is proving spot on as his successor Guus Hiddink has managed to lift the team and seriously improve the results. The Blues are unbeaten in 13 games (W6 D7) and now have a realistic chance to secure Europa League qualification, although they will be more concerned with attempting to lift the FA Cup trophy and surprising some of the big sides in the Champions League. Team’s huge experience in the competition could help compensate for the lack of confidence, but red-hot PSG are probably not the team they want to face right now. And as much as the 5-1 triumph over Newcastle United raised the spirits in the dressing room, it is perfectly clear that the clash at Parc des Princes will be a whole different ball game.
Diego Costa will continue to wear protective mask after breaking his nose in training, while John Obi Mikel could be recalled to the side.
Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao Garcia continue to miss out, whereas the season is over for defender Kurt Zouma after suffering a shocking knee injury.
Key Factors to Consider
- PSG have win and draw in last two home games vs Chelsea
- Both teams have scored in five of last six meetings between the two sides
- PSG won 16 of last 17 fixtures on all fronts
- The Saints have 14 wins in last 15 games at Parc des Princes
- Chelsea won one of last four CL games on the road (D2 L1)
Paris Saint-Germain have been one of Europe’s in-form sides this season and with Laurent Blanc having managed to rest his key men at the weekend, the Saints look set to extend the amazing run. And while Chelsea have been improving of late, their performances are still not good enough to match a side like PSG.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 7/10