Chelsea’s experience key against PSG
LONDON (AP) — Having won the Champions League two seasons ago, experience is on Chelsea’s side as the Blues need to overturn a two-goal deficit at Stamford Bridge against European football’s newest “nouveaux riches” to reach the semifinals of the tournament.
Ahead of Paris Saint-Germain’s visit on Tuesday, Jose Mourinho lamented the lack of strikers in his squad. But the Chelsea manager is blessed with a group of talented attacking midfielders to pick from including Eden Hazard and Willian, while veteran Samuel Eto’o could be a huge asset if he recovers in time from a hamstring injury.
Following the 3-1 loss at the Parc des Princes, not conceding will also be crucial for the west London team, which boasts an excellent defensive home record: Chelsea conceded only 9 goals in 17 Premier League home games this season and will come into the PSG match on the back of eight consecutive clean sheets at Stamford Bridge in all competitions.
PSG has scored 25 games in this Champions League campaign but is without injured striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has scored 10 goals in the competition this term.
Here are five things to know about Tuesday’s match:
HISTORY FAVORS CHELSEA
Been there, done that. Two years ago, Chelsea was on the verge of elimination after a 3-1 loss at Napoli in the first leg of their last 16 tie. PSG center forward Edinson Cavani and winger Ezequiel Lavezzi — who scored the French team’s early goal in Paris last week —were playing for the Italian side at the time. In a remarkable turnaround, Chelsea went through with a 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge and went on to win the tournament.
Chelsea can also take confidence in its good home record against French opposition at home. The Blues have received visitors from France five times and managed to keep four clean sheets.
“I’ve played in these big Champions League nights at Stamford Bridge before and we have got a big home performance in us’” said Chelsea defender Gary Cahill. “We have the character for that sort of performance.”
Paris Saint-Germain forward Edinson Cavani will finally get the chance to play in his favored center forward role because of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s injury.
Ibrahimovic, who has scored 40 goals for PSG this season, faces a few weeks out with a thigh injury picked up during the first leg.
Cavani has played wide on the right most of the season in Laurent Blanc’s 4-2-3-1 formation and said in an interview last week that he was increasingly unhappy in this role, adding that he would assess his position at the end of the season.
“I’m not going to start reading everything the players say otherwise I’ll never see the end of it. The fact that Ibrahimovic is out now might make Cavani happy,” Blanc said. “Cavani doesn’t have anything to prove, he’s scored a lot of goals even though he’s been playing in a position he doesn’t like.”
Although Cavani has scored 22 goals in all competitions, his 15 in 26 league games is a far lower ratio compared to the 29 in 34 last season for Napoli.
“He hasn’t quite got back to his best level yet, but you’ll see that he will have a great end to the season and will score a lot of goals,” Blanc said. “Cavani’s not just a scorer who goal hangs in the penalty area, that’s why he’s useful. He defends, he fights, he harasses opponents, so that’s great for us.”
Winger Lucas has so far failed to live up to expectations following his high-profile move to PSG.
When he joined in January last year from Sao Paulo, the 21-year-old Lucas was billed as one of the most exciting prospects in world football, and it was seen as a big coup for PSG to sign him from under the noses of Manchester United.
But he has scored only three league goals in 40 matches and has not scored in his past 27 games in all competitions. For a player costing more than €40 million ($55 million), Blanc expects more.
Far more impressive has been the form of Ezequiel Lavezzi, PSG’s other winger. After a difficult start to the season, Lavezzi has scored six goals in his past 12 games, including an agile half-volley on the turn against Chelsea last week.
With his searing pace and aggressive approach, he has become PSG’s most dangerous player going forward — apart from Ibrahimovic, of course.
HAZARD BOUND FOR PSG MOVE?
Jose Mourinho is insisting Eden Hazard is not for sale but the playmaker might be heading to Paris Saint-Germain next season if the Belgium playmaker’s wife has her say in the matter.
Hazard, who has scored 17 goals this season including a penalty against PSG in the first leg, has been Chelsea’s best player during the current campaign. Hazard was targeted by PSG before he joined Chelsea from Lille in 2012 and the French champions are reportedly keen on luring him during the summer.
In an interview with French TV Canal +, Hazard admitted his wife may have the final say on a possible transfer.
“If my wife was to say: ‘Honey, I’d like you to go to PSG,’ I would have to take it into account.” Hazard said with a smile. “She is the boss at home. Everything she says must be taken seriously.”
MOURINHO KEEN FOR ETO’O RETURN
The Cameroon striker has not featured since picking up a hamstring injury in a 6-0 hammering of Arsenal in the Premier League at the end of March but is recovering faster than initially expected.
Mourinho does not hide his discontent towards his strikers. Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have been underachieving and the 33-year-old Eto’o has been the most consistent of the three, scoring 13 goals in 37 appearances. More important, Eto’o has won the Champions League three times and is one for the big games.
“If we don’t score a minimum of two goals, we are out. We know that,” said Mourinho. “If we can have everybody available who can give us a chance to score goals then let’s do that. So maybe I will pick him but to risk a player you need to have minimum conditions. If you think he’s going to be out after 10 minutes of the game you can’t take that risk. But if there is a minimum of conditions of risk, then, yes, I will pick him.”
AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report.