Champions League Insights: Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea


Wednesday night’s big Champions League quarter-final tie is a clash between two new money footballing elites.

Paris Saint-Germain are trying to make a name for themselves having only faltered at last year’s quarter-final stage, whilst Chelsea are looking to win the tournament for a second time, and a third time for manager Jose Mourinho.

These two wealthy titans of European football will offer a contrast in styles and give us the chance to view a host of top class talents going up against each other.

 

Possible line-ups

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will of course be leading the line for the Parisians. Edison Cavani will likely be dropped to the bench with Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi playing in the support roles.

Nemanja Matic is cup-tied so David Luiz will play in a defensive midfield role partnered by Ramires. Chelsea's back four will be the same and we could see Fernando Torres start up front, given that he has a decent record in Europe for the Blues.

 

Can Chelsea halt the super-confident Swede?

Ibrahimovic is not shying about boasting his own credentials. The Swedish striker has long regarded himself as one of the best players in world football. Until his move to PSG though he appeared to play in bursts and what was deemed by some to be an unsuccessful spell at Barcelona led many to doubt him and his abilities.

This season though he's been world class at every level scoring 25 goals in 30 league appearances and also firing 10 times in just seven Champions League games. Only world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more than Ibrahimovic has so far in the tournament, and he is undoubtedly the main threat the Chelsea.

Brilliant with both feet and strong in the air, he is in many ways the complete forward. Few strikers of his build have as much technical ability and he will cause John Terry and Gary Cahill a host of problems in every regard.

Terry won't be able to easily outmuscle Ibra, nor will he be able to keep up with him for pace. If Terry or Cahill allow him an opportunity to strike he will likely take it having converted 32.3% of his chances so far this season.

Ibra is very difficult to pick up as he not only attacks in the box but is also capable of dropping deep and creating chances for his teammates (he has created 13 in seven matches in Europe) and also getting involved in the build-up:

This is what he did so well in the first leg against Bayer Leverkusen, where he netted twice.

As we can see he spent a huge 38.21% of the time in and around the centre circle and just 4.07% of the game in the opposition penalty area.

He is not a typical forward in this regard and it will make him hard to pick up. Chelsea will likely play David Luiz as a holding player to counter-act this and pick Ibra up when he comes into these deeper areas. This could be a key battle in the tie.

Luiz, if deployed in this role, will have to focus for the entire game as Chelsea cannot afford a slip up against such a dangerous opponent.

 

Will Chelsea's counter-attacking reactive style give them the edge in Paris?

Chelsea approach the big games in a similar fashion. Mourinho opts for a solid defensive shape, keeping men behind the ball and then looking to pounce on the counter attack. This worked very well away from home against Manchester City earlier this season and will undoubtedly be the tactic employed by Mourinho for this tie.

Willian will be pressing on the right flank and looking to track Lavezzi, whilst Oscar will be pressing as a no.10, making sure he doesn't allow Thiago Motta or Marco Verratti too much time on the ball.

Eden Hazard will be the main outlet in this regard given his incredible pace and ability to run on the ball past defenders. Hazard has completed 33 dribbles in just six Champions League appearances this season and his average of 5.5 dribbles per game makes him the top dribbler in the competition so far.

If he gets released by Luiz or Ramires and is able to run at PSG he will be able to cause them problems, especially if he is not tracked by Lucas Moura, who is better going forward than he is at defending.

Chelsea's pace and power on the break can be the difference in this game if they are able to keep things tight at the back and prevent Ibrahimovic and co from finding an opening.

 

Conclusion

Much of the attention will be on Ibrahimovic before the game is played and he can certainly turn the fixture on its head with a moment of brilliance in Chelsea's penalty area.

Few defenders in Europe are better on the big occasion than Terry though, and he'll be well up for this tie.

Chelsea will look to soak it up and attack on the break so we could see two intriguing style clashes between two sides desperate to make their mark in Europe this season.

 

Both teams to score is available at 2.02. Click here for the rest of the PSG v Chelsea odds.