Edinson Cavani must fill the void left by talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic when Paris Saint-Germain take on Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League.
Ibrahimovic limped out of PSG’s 3-1 quarter-final first-leg win over the Premier League side last week with a hamstring strain that is set to keep him on the sidelines for a significant chunk of this month.
On Saturday, Uruguayan frontman Cavani reverted to a central striking role in his team-mate’s absence and delivered an impressive display, opening the scoring in a 3-0 win over Reims that moved Laurent Blanc’s side a step closer to retaining their Ligue 1 title.
PSG’s domestic dominance allowed Blanc to cast an eye towards the meeting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, which will see the French club aiming to book a first Champions League semi-final appearance in 19 years.
Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi were all named among the substitutes against Reims and the latter two remained on the bench throughout.
PSG’s other two strikes at the weekend were a pair of own goals from the unfortunate Aissa Mandi – continuing a helpful quirk after Chelsea defender David Luiz put through his own net at the Parc des Princes last Wednesday.
Luiz’s error made the score 2-1, a state of affairs Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho may have found perfectly acceptable due to Eden Hazard’s valuable away goal from the penalty spot.
However, Javier Pastore’s stoppage-time strike tipped the tie in the French champions’ favour.
Nevertheless, Chelsea are one the few teams with previous form for overturning a two-goal deficit.
On their way to Champions League glory in 2011-12, Chelsea welcomed Napoli to Stamford Bridge on the back of a 3-1 first-leg defeat, but ultimately progressed after extra-time following a 4-1 triumph.
What is more, Napoli’s team on that day contained both Cavani and Lavezzi, who will no doubt be wary of another fightback.
Additionally, the recent record of Chelsea and their manager in European competitions stands comparison with any in the game.
Having ended owner Roman Abramovich’s impatient wait for the continent’s premier trophy in 2012, Chelsea bounced back from group-stage demotion last season by collecting the UEFA Europa League at Benfica’s expense.
Mourinho is chasing a third Champions League title, having hoisted the trophy while in charge of Porto and Inter. In eight career European quarter-final ties, the Portuguese has never been defeated.
When they last visited England for a competitive fixture in December 2008, PSG secured a 0-0 Europa League draw at Manchester City – a result that would more than suit their aims on this occasion.
But the significant firepower at Blanc’s disposal, even allowing for Ibrahimovic’s absence, means such a scoreline appears unlikely.
In away Champions League wins this season at Olympiacos, Anderlecht and Bayer Leverkusen, PSG have found the net 13 times.
Blanc suffered a 4-0 group-stage loss at Chelsea in 2008 during his time in charge of Bordeaux. He has good reason to be confident of personal revenge.
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