Chelsea HQ vs. PSG Talk: Champions League Preview Part II

There might not be another match in the Champions League round of 16 with more on the line than Chelsea F.C. vs. Paris Saint-Germain. The Blues have climbed their way out of the relegation zone in the Barclays Premier League but still need to win the UEFA Champions League this year to secure their place in the competition next season. For Paris Saint-Germain, failure to reach the semifinals and the season will be considered a complete failure no matter how many domestic trophies they win.

The first leg of the tie went to PSG, who squeaked out a 2-1 victory over Chelsea thanks to goals from Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, Chelsea scored a crucial away goal and have it all to play for at Stamford Bridge.

To help preview the big game, we reached out once again to Scott at Chelsea HQ to get his thoughts and predictions:

So, a lot has changed since we last talked. Chelsea are unbeaten in 16 of their last 17 matches and PSG’s invincible season is over—not to mention injuries and social media drama. Are Chelsea favorites to win this tie now?

Chelsea HQ: I would not go that far. Our unbeaten run under Guus Hiddink has been impressive, but our big problem has been the number of goals we have conceded. We have now gone over a month since our last clean sheet and I feel our defensive performance will decide the outcome of Wednesday’s match.

PSG have probably known since the start of the season that no-one would seriously challenge them for the Ligue 1 title. I don’t read much into your draws recently, I’m sure the players are focused on the Champions League and it should be your priority.

PSG Talk: I still think PSG are favored to advance but I’m not feeling confident at all. Marco Verratti and Blaise Matuidi are both dealing with injuries and could be left out of the squad. Laurent Blanc is hopeful they’ll make the trip to London but I can’t imagine they’ll be at 100 percent. If both are out, PSG could feature a midfield of Javier Pastore, Thiago Motta, and Adrien Rabiot. That’s not a terrible midfield but Pastore is working his way back to full fitness, Rabiot is prone to mistakes, and Motta has resorted to punching people in the head lately.

As you mentioned, PSG have not been seriously challenged all season and now they are in a win-or-go-home situation. It will be interesting to see how they react. At this point last season, they were in a contested battle with Olympique Lyonnais for the league title, which likely contributed to their ability to fight back with 10 men at Stamford Bridge and win.

Which player on the opposing team impressed you the most in the first match and why?

Chelsea HQ: I said in our first preview that I have always been impressed with your midfield pairing of Marco Veratti and Blaise Matuidi. Both players showed their class in the first leg, especially the Frenchman. Again, I wouldn’t be too disappointed if they failed their fitness tests and missed the return leg at Stamford Bridge.

Another unlikely hero was your goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp. Without his amazing reflexes to deny Diego Costa from close range, it could have been a lot worse for PSG. Lucas Moura also caused some problems with his shots from distance.

PSG Talk: In our first preview I talked about Diego Costa and Willian. Both players are so dangerous with the ball and I thought they performed very well. Willian’s runs from the middle of the park made me want to shield my eyes in fear. Costa on the other hand should have had a goal. Trapp’s wonder save was a thing of beauty but I wonder if the young German will be able to do it on the road in a hostile stadium.

I also thought Branislav Ivanovic filled in nicely as a center back. For most of this season, the Serbian has been outclassed in the right back position but the move to the middle suited his style of play more. Defense will be the key for Chelsea, as a 1-0 win will see them through, so I definitely worry about his ability to lock down the PSG attack.

PSG won the first match 2-1 but Chelsea have the important away goal. Predict how your team will set up tactically.

Chelsea HQ: It will be very similar to our clash in 2014. Going into the game, we knew we had to score to go through, so we threw everything at you and got rewarded in the end.

We face a much better PSG side this time and it won’t be easy, but we have to make sure we get an early goal and defend well. Our players have been much more confident lately and they all know what they have to do.

PSG Talk: Blanc will instruct his team to do what they do so well, and that is play a possession-style game. The longer the game stays 0-0, I expect we’ll see a rather boring PSG, especially if Rabiot and Motta are in the midfield. Look for Angel Di Maria and Lucas Moura to lead any counters but given the injuries to the squad, I don’t think we’ll see ambitious football from PSG unless Chelsea manage to score.

We both predicted at least one red card in this tie and have yet to see one. Who gets sent off at Stamford Bridge?

Chelsea HQ: The encounter at Parc des Princes was surprisingly calm, but as mentioned before, emotions will boil over when players feel under pressure. My random guess is your captain, Thiago Silva.

PSG Talk: Good prediction with Silva. He does have a way of sticking his arms in the air and I could see him picking up a silly red. I’m going with Motta though. I mentioned earlier he recently punched a guy in the head and somehow escaped without a red. Either Costa will wind him up or he will go into an awkward challenge like Ibrahimovic last year.

Interesting how we both think a PSG player will be sent off!

If Guus Hiddink leads Chelsea to victory over PSG, will Roman Abramovich give him a long-term contract?

Chelsea HQ: Hiddink would have the backing of many Chelsea fans, but he has made it clear that he came here on a short-term basis and to, as crazy as it sounds, get the club out of the relegation zone.

He has done much more than that. While there are some top names available this summer, I would give him an opportunity. He enjoys being at Chelsea, has a great relationship with us fans and seems to get on with the players. It would make a lot of sense.

Who will be the man of the match for your team?

Chelsea HQ: Diego Costa has been our most improved player since Jose Mourinho’s departure and has been directly involved in our last 10 league goals.

I’m confident he can finally get one over Trapp and score the match winner to take us through.

PSG Talk: Great prediction and I can absolutely see that happening. With all PSG have been through recently (loss to Lyon, Serge Aurier’s rant, injuries), I would love to see Ibrahimovic play out of his mind and finally take over an important Champions League and score the winning goal. We may never see a player with his size and technical ability again and I predict an inspiring performance.

Predict your team’s starting XI.

Chelsea HQ: Chelsea have a couple of knocks here and there, but Guus Hiddink is confident that most players will recover in time. Unfortunately the game will come too early for John Terry and I would not throw him into the mix.

Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Rahman; Mikel, Fabregas; Pedro, Willian, Hazard; Diego Costa

PSG Talk: This is a tough one for me because so many regular starters are questionable at the moment. I’m going to say Matuidi and Verratti are healthy enough to play but who knows at this point. I’m also going with Cavani over Lucas. I think Cavani has earned his place in the starting XI and having Lucas’ speed on the bench could prove beneficial should PSG find themselves needing a goal late.

Trapp; Maxwell, Luiz, Silva, Marquinhos; Matuidi, Motta, Verratti; Cavani, Ibrahimovic, Di Maria

Here’s how our other writer Daniel thinks PSG could line up.

We both anticipated a closely contested tie. Still sticking with your original scoreline?

Chelsea HQ: It will definitely be a close contest, but my 2-1 Chelsea win on aggregate can obviously no longer happen. So I reckon we will go through on away goals with a scrappy 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge thanks to Diego Costa.

Your predictions so far have been worryingly accurate—that has to change!

PSG Talk: Hey, I was right the first time, why change now!? I think it will be a 1-1 draw with goals from Costa and Verratti.

Why do Chelsea fans boo David Luiz?

Chelsea HQ: It is important to say that it is a minority of Chelsea ‘fans’ that boo David Luiz. I can guarantee that 99% still love him, he was part of our historical Champions League and Europa League winning squads and gave us so many happy memories.

I think what upset some fans is, in the build-up to last season’s return leg, he claimed that he would not celebrate if he scored against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, out of respect. Obviously the opposite thing happened, but I don’t blame him at all. You simply can’t control your emotions in that moment and he has a job to do for the club that pays him.

PSG Talk: Thank you for the insight and I completely agree that Luiz simply lost his mind after scoring and meant no harm in his celebration. Just as a sidenote, I’ve never understood the “don’t celebrate against your old club” thing. Seems petty to me. Scoring a goal is incredibly difficult in football and if you’re lucky enough to do it, regardless of the opponent, you deserve to have some fun.

Last but not least, how about a friendly wager? Loser has to change their Twitter profile pic to whatever the winner wants for three days.

Chelsea HQ: I’m in! Personally, I would suggest a picture of the winning team’s celebrations… that will hurt!

PSG Talk: We have ourselves a deal then! Best of luck on Wednesday and the rest of the season.

Tags Champions League Chelsea
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