Sports from the Basement

PSG vs. Chelsea: UEFA Champions League Round of 16 Preview

Perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the round, this star-studded battle promises to eliminate one of the “favorites” at this early stage. Chelsea are currently hands-down the best team in the Premier League, while PSG are two points back in the Ligue 1 and seem to be lying in wait.

Paris Saint-Germain

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PSG has not had an impressive run of late, having most recently missed a chance to take the lead in Ligue 1  with a 2-2 draw at home against Caen in which they conceded both goals in the last three minutes.

The French super-team is heavily depleted due to injury, missing some of it’s highest rated players. Lucas Moura, Serge Aurier, and Yohan Cabaye have all been ruled out already, and the fitness of Marquinhos, Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi will be assessed on Monday.

With a depleted roster, PSG needs Zlatan Ibrahimovic now more than ever. Ibra enters with 2 goals in 3 Champions League apps, and 11 in 16 Ligue 1 starts. Ibra has scored 3 goals and assisted once in the 6 games so far in 2015, and his attacking prowess will need to be focused in order to beat Chelsea.

Chelsea

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Manager Jose Mourinho is trying to win this tournament with his third club and this group has to be considered one of the favorites. After a shock loss to Bradford at the end of January, the Blues had a weekend off to prepare for this mid-week clash.

Chelsea currently the head-and-shoulders leaders in the Premier League, and currently ahead of Manchester City by 7 points. Their goal-scoring has been lead by Diego Costa, living up to all expectations after a disappointing summer in Brazil, with 17 Premier League goals and will be back for kickoff. Cesc Fabregas has tallied 15 assists in the BPL, and the play of he and Eden Hazard has been beautiful to watch all season.

Chelsea will have choices when it comes to their squad, with talent to spare and options at center back and keeper.

Matchup

These two teams faced off last year in a memorable knockout-stage encounter. Demba Ba, now gone from Chelsea, scored in the final minute to get the win on away goals in Paris. The Blues had not conceded at home and had scored away, a fact thrown out by PSG fans as a excuse for the two teams relative closeness in quality.

PSG manager Laurent Blanc this week called out Eden Hazard as the man to key on, recognizing his ability to shred defenses and set up opportunites, something Chelsea will be looking to exploit en-route to a likely Fabregas to Costa connection that has looked so nice this year. Meanwhile, PSG will themselves look to focus its power at the back, where David Luiz joins stalwart Thiago Silva to form the backbone in defense.

Prediction

With so many PSG injuries, their defensive backbone will likely be tested again and again, but PSG can and will look to counter with the strength and style of Zlatan. Chelsea has the firepower, though, and Jose finally has “his team” – one that has ripped though the Premier League so far.

I expect a PSG win at home, perhaps 1-0, but a whipping in London where Chelsea will move on.

 

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