Four Things We Learned From PSG vs. Chelsea

It feels good to have the UEFA Champions League back, doesn’t it? Not only is it the biggest competition in club football, it’s also the only true measure stick we have to determine where this Paris Saint-Germain side stand when it comes to Europe’s elite.

From Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring a rare knockout stage goal (only seven in 36 round of 16 matches heading into Tuesday) to Edinson Cavani becoming the unlikely hero by scoring the winning goal, the first leg of the New Classic was an eventful one. Some supporters (including myself) expected an easier game against the reigning Premier League champions considering their poor run of form this season, but on the contrary, Chelsea pulled out a solid performance and secured a crucial away goal from the unlikeliest of sources.

Here are the four things we learned from PSG vs. Chelsea:

Serge Aurier’s Attacking Influence was Missed

Following his ill-thought remarks, which led the Ivorian to miss the game (and potentially many more). Aurier had become such an integral part of this PSG side due to the attacking outlet he presented from the right side of the pitch, already netting three goals and three assists. Marquinhos started in his place at right-back and performed well in his defensive duties, but despite creating one really good chance with a pin-point cross for Ibrahimovic in the first half, all his other crosses into the box didn’t present much of a danger for a makeshift Chelsea defense as stats show via Four Four Two’s Stats Zone:

Marquinhos can’t be blamed for his performance in attack though, as we must remember, his natural position is center-back and Laurent Blanc is playing him out of position to make up for Aurier’s absence. However, going into the second leg at the bridge, Blanc should look to start the more attack-minded, Gregory van der Wiel, as I’m sure he’ll look to go on the offense knowing a single goal for Chelsea could turn the whole tie on its head as a result of the away goal. The Dutch international, for all his inconsistency this season, has improved due to competition from Aurier and already has three assists in the Champions League from just three starts.

The Midfield Needs to Improve at Stamford Bridge

Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta, and Blaise Matuidi were dominant in keeping possession for Paris Saint-Germain and helped fuel the PSG attack. However, they somewhat uncharacteristically looked shaky when Chelsea held the ball for extended periods during the match particularly in the first half. Although they did improve as the game went on, the midfield must do better without the ball at Stamford Bridge and not allow Chelsea to create dangerous goal-scoring opportunities.

Ibrahimovic is on a Mission

It wasn’t the perfect outing for the PSG’s all-time leading scorer but you could see just how committed he was to making an impact on the pitch with his dangerous runs and link-up play with Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura. His goal could be considered lucky due to the deflection off of John Obi Mikel but it was no less than what he deserved given the effort he put in throughout the match. Zlatan has been guilty of going missing in games, especially in the Champions League against the best clubs, but on Tuesday night, Ibrahimovic silenced his critics by putting in an inspired performance even by his lofty standards. Ibrahimovic has been in stunning form domestically for Paris this season and already has 28 goals in all competitions this season and looks set to go past his 41 goal mark. This could be the year the 34-year-old finally gets his hands on the only trophy that eludes him at the club level.

Cavani Still Has a Role to Play at PSG

Just a couple weeks ago we wrote about how Cavani coming off the bench for PSG, especially in the Champions League, could be crucial to the team’s success this season. Against Chelsea, his substitution in the second half worked to perfection as the Uruguayan got the all important winning goal to take a slight advantage to London in a month’s time. You could see from the rage in Cavani’s celebration how much it meant to him.

Assuming Blanc can help Cavani channel more of this passion into his game, he could help him get his confidence back, making the striker an even deadlier option for the manager.

Tags Angel Di Maria Blaise Matuidi Champions League Chelsea Edinson Cavani Laurent Blanc Lucas Moura Marco Verratti Marquinhos Serge Aurier Thiago Motta Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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