Other than Mikel John Obi’s ongoing absence with a knee injury, Chelsea are likely to be at full strength for Tuesday’s visit to Paris Saint-Germain. Juan Cuadrado is available: Fiorentina, the club from whom he signed in January, were not involved in European competition and he has been included in Chelsea’s Champions League squad.
For PSG, there are major concerns at right-back with Marquinhos and Serge Aurier both being forced off before the end of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Caen. Yohan Cabaye and Lucas Moura are also doubts while Javier Pastore could be available after recovering from a calf injury.
In terms of statistics, Chelsea’s record since losing to Bradford City in the FA Cup at the beginning of January looks excellent, with four wins and a draw in the league and progress to the Capital One Cup final after a 2-1 aggregate victory (after extra-time) against Liverpool in the semi. There is credit, of course, in getting the job done, and signs of the mental strength that so typifies a Jose Mourinho side, but it can’t be said Chelsea are playing well.
They clung on in the first leg of that semi-final against Liverpool, and were less than fluent in despatching such out of form sides as Aston Villa and Everton.
PSG have had a miserable season and, despite the enormous financial advantages they enjoy, lie just third in Ligue 1. They are on a run of five unbeaten in the league, including a hard-fought away draw against the leaders Lyon, but they conceded two late goals in drawing with Caen on Saturday.
The two legs of last season’s Champions League quarter-final could hardly have been more different. In Paris, Chelsea struggled to deal PSG’s midfield trio of Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi but looked to have got away with a 2-1 defeat when a moment of doziness defending an injury-time throw-in allowed Pastore in to score an excellent third.
Back at Stamford Bridge, though, Mourinho comprehensively outcoached Laurent Blanc, who was perhaps a little tentative, gradually ratcheting up the pressure until Demba Ba secured an away goals victory with three minutes remaining.
By that point, Chelsea were playing a front three of Samuel Eto’o, Ba and Fernando Torres, backed up by Andre Schurrle and Willian, with both full-backs pushing forwards: what was telling was less that Mourinho piled more and more forwards on, than Blanc’s inability to do anything about it. It later emerged that Mourinho had drilled his players in how to play given virtually any scoreline in the second half.
BATTLE IN MIDFIELD
PSG have the same midfield three this season as last and given how powerful they were in the first leg, given their blend of ball-winning and ball-playing capacity, that may lead Mourinho to modify his approach.
Nemanja Matic is sure to start alongside Cesc Fabregas, but this may be more of a 4-3-3 than a 4-2-3-1 with Oscar perhaps standing down for Ramires or at least asked to fulfil a more defensive brief.
ZLATAN AND THE CHELSEA DEFENCE
The one great weakness for Chelsea this season has been if a forward gets the chance to run at the heart of their defence, with Harry Kane and Philippe Coutinho being perhaps the two most notable exponents. Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have taken note.
He may not be as quick as he once was, and he’s not in great form this season, but if he can find space to turn so he hits John Terry and either Kurt Zouma or Gary Cahill with momentum he still presents a major danger; significantly, he missed the second leg last season, which perhaps allowed Chelsea to focus more on the attacking side of their game.
HAZARD v MARQUINHOS
All the rumours linking Eden Hazard with a move to PSG can surely be put aside after the Belgian signed a contract extension to 2020 – the timing perhaps significant in that it ensured his future would not become a destabilising factor in the run-up to this game. He must fancy his chances cutting in against Marquinhos, a central defender asked to play at right-back in recent weeks because of Gregory van der Wiel’s indifferent form. If, that is, Marquinhos is fit. If not right-back looks even more of a weakness.
Chelsea’s away form has been great this season, while PSG are unbeaten at home in the French league and have beaten Barcelona and Ajax at the Parc des Princes already this season. Still, Chelsea’s pace on the flanks looks perfectly suited to hit PSG on the break, so long as they can gain some sort of foothold in central midfield.
The 2.75 on a Chelsea win looks generous, or they can be backed at 1.87 draw no bet if you want a little security.