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An Intriguing Champions League Draw For English Teams

An Intriguing Champions League Draw For English Teams

 

The draw for the Champions League first knockout round was made on Monday morning and with it brought mixed fortunes for the English clubs left in the competition: Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.

Image Courtesy of patoborrego, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of patoborrego, flickr.com

PSG vs Chelsea
As a Chelsea fan, I’m relatively happy with the draw. For the second successive year (albeit a round earlier), Chelsea meet French champions PSG. Chelsea’s reward for winning the group means that they travel to Paris for the first leg, with the return leg three weeks later at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have a far stronger squad this season and, without sounding too confident, I can’t see them making the same mistakes as they did last season when they lost the first leg 3-1 in Paris. The first leg will be a tighter affair this time around and I think that a score draw will be enough for Chelsea to then win the tie at Stamford Bridge in front of their own fans. It will be a close game whatever happens but I think Chelsea will have what it takes to secure their place in the quarter-final.

The way Chelsea have performed this season, both in Europe and in the Premier League, has, at times, been breathtaking. Jose Mourinho has once again instilled a swagger of confidence and belief amongst the players and the team look relentless in their pursuit of glory. That being said, a great team can’t be judged on half a season and only time will tell if this Mourinho team can be considered one of the greatest. Despite everything that the Portuguese manager has achieved in the game there is one thing missing from his decorated CV, Champions League glory with Chelsea.

If Chelsea are to go on and win the Champions League this season, they will have to navigate their way past the French Champions PSG and summer signings Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa could prove the difference. Costa’s battle against former Chelsea defender David Luiz will be intriguing and although PSG have the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani in their ranks, both have failed to impress on previous visits to Stamford Bridge.

Image Courtesy of Christian Del Aguila, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Christian Del Aguila, flickr.com

Verdict: I’m predicting a tight game but Chelsea’s Champions League experience will prevail and the tie will be won in the second leg at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea sealing their place in the Quarter Finals.

 

Arsenal v Monaco
Arsenal, for once, will be very happy with their draw for the Champions League knockout stages. They will play against a Monaco side that only scored 4 goals in six games to qualify. For that reason, Arsenal must be confident of reaching the quarter-finals for the first time since 2008. Arsene Wenger will return to his former club and, on paper, you could argue that finishing second in the group has given Arsenal an easier draw than London rivals Chelsea, who finished first. In recent weeks Arsene Wenger’s future at the club has been called into question but by avoiding the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Wenger will have a chance to silence his critics.

There is a long way to go of course but Arsenal will be confident of reaching the Quarterfinals and then, who knows far they can go? With the first leg at the Emirates stadium, it will be important for Arsenal to start well and they will be looking to take at least a two-goal lead with them to France, to help protect them in the second leg. Arsenal have real quality going forward this season and Alexis Sanchez will relish the opportunity to play against an ageing Monaco defence.

Verdict: If Arsenal can reproduce anything like the performance they did against Galatasaray in Matchday Six against Monaco then there will only be one outcome in this tie. Arsenal will comfortably progress to the next round.

 

Image Courtesy of Wonker, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Wonker, flickr.com

Man City vs Barcelona
It’s a case of deja vu for Manchester City fans, as they prepare for another Champions League meeting with Barcelona. Last time Barcelona won 2-0 at the Etihad, and then 2-1 in the Nou Camp. However, with another years’ experience under their belts, can Manchester City make it through to the Quarter Finals for the first time?

There is something about Man City and the Champions League, which conjures up the feeling that it’s just not meant to be. For 10 years I had the same feeling – Chelsea came so close to winning the Champions League but always seemed to fall at the final hurdle. But then, when they did finally win it, it was in the most dramatic of circumstances.

I’m not saying that Manchester City are going to win the Champions League this season or even beat Barcelona but the manner in which they beat Bayern Munich and Roma to make it this far in the first place must give them hope that, even when the odds are stacked against them, they can beat the best teams in Europe. Whether Manchester City prevail and knockout Messi, Suarez, Neymar and co will depend to a great extent on the fitness of Sergio Aguero. The Argentine striker is currently out with a knee injury and is expected to be fit with time to spare before the two games against Barcelona, but without him, City lack that cutting edge. The likes of Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and David Silva, all playing at the top of their games give City hope but I just can’t see them beating Barcelona in the Nou Camp where the second leg will be played.

Verdict: Manchester City will be buoyed by the way they beat Bayern Munich and Roma to qualify for the knockout stages. But Barcelona have a wealth of attacking talent, arguably the best front three in the world and whilst it will be closer than last year’s tie, Barcelona will be Manchester City’s Champions League nemesis once again.

Image Courtesy of Football DirectNews, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Football DirectNews, flickr.com

Chelsea vs PSG- Can Mourinho mastermind Chelsea’s Champions League comeback ahead of PSG clash?

 

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.

Image Courtesy of ahli webao, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of ahli webao, flickr.com

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.

 

Image Courtesy of Todd, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Todd, flickr.com

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.

Image Courtesy of In Mou We Trust, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of In Mou We Trust, flickr.com

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.

Chelsea vs PSG- Can Mourinho mastermind Chelsea's Champions League comeback ahead of PSG clash?

 

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.

Image Courtesy of ahli webao, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of ahli webao, flickr.com

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 de 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.

 

Image Courtesy of Todd, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Todd, flickr.com

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.

Image Courtesy of In Mou We Trust, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of In Mou We Trust, flickr.com

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.