Excitement is building ahead of tonight’s Champions League second leg tie between Chelsea and PSG. On paper, it’s a mouth-watering match, as Chelsea look to overturn a two-goal deficit and advance to the semi-finals.
Not many people place Chelsea as favourites going into the game but there is something about Champions League knockout games at Stamford Bridge which, as a Chelsea fan, gives me hope that we can progress to the semi-finals.
Against Barcelona, in 2005 Chelsea overturned a two-goal deficit. Against Liverpool, in 2008 the tie ebbed and flowed across the two legs and eventually, Chelsea won. And against Napoli in 2012, Chelsea found themselves in the same situation, losing 3-1 after the first leg and still progressed on to win the trophy. What the experience of those games gives Chelsea fans more than anything is the belief that we can go and do the same again tonight.
Just six days ago in the Parc des Princes, individual errors gifted PSG two goals and the third goal deep into injury time made tonight’s task that little bit harder. Despite conceding three goals (more than we had conceded in our previous seven Champions League matches), PSG created very little in the first leg and for long periods of the game, we looked comfortable.
So how are Chelsea going to win the game tonight?
The atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge will be electric before kick- off. We need to take belief from the recent victories at home over Arsenal, Tottenham and Galatasaray; results which, should we repeat tonight, would be enough to see us advance to the semi-finals.
Chelsea’s defensive solidarity and togetherness, which was uncharacteristically lacking in the first leg in Paris, will be key if they are to stop PSG scoring tonight. Boosted by the news that talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be missing through injury, if Chelsea can keep another clean sheet and nullify the threat posed by Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, then they have half a chance.
In midfield Chelsea will miss the energy and enthusiasm of Ramires who is suspended and the ineligible Nemanja Matic. But in club stalwart Frank Lampard and David Luiz Chelsea have more than enough experience to cause PSG problems. Out wide Mourniho had the luxury of resting Hazard and Oscar at the weekend and Chelsea will look to both players, along with Willian, to make the difference tonight.
It’s upfront though that will go a long way to deciding Chelsea’s fate and much will depend on the fitness of Samuel Eto’o who missed the first leg with a hamstring injury. He has been Chelsea’s most prolific striker this season with all 11 of his goals coming at Stamford Bridge. Is playing him a gamble? Yes. But on a night when risks need to be taken, this could be another master stroke from Mourinho come the end of full time if he plays and scores the winning goal.
On the other hand, if he isn’t fit then Mourniho is likely to hand a start to under fire striker Fernando Torres ahead of Andre Schurle, who started in the first leg, and the relatively inexperienced Demba Ba. Despite not scoring a goal in the league since January, Torres’ record in the Champions league this season has been much better – three goals in three games. (If only his overall record for Chelsea followed a similar pattern, then he might be challenging Cristiano Ronaldo for the European golden boot).
Mourinho thrives on being the underdog and, in my view, Chelsea are actually under less pressure going into the game than they would have been had they been leading. PSG might have a two goal advantage but Chelsea have nothing to lose and can play with freedom.
People often forget the simple mathematics of football; something echoed by Mourinho in his pre match press conference….“If we score a minimum of two goals we go through; it’s basic mathematics”
Indeed it’s easier to set up a team to win rather than to set up a team not to lose because it’s not natural to play like this. Mourinho tried the latter in the first leg and failed to get a positive result and so tonight I think we will see a different Chelsea; a Chelsea with belief, a Chelsea with no fear.
Mourinho believes, the players believe and most importantly the fans believe.
Verdict: Chelsea 2-0 PSG.