Match Preview: Paris Saint-Germain vs Chelsea

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The hour and 15 minute flight from London to Paris has become an all too familiar one to Chelsea players and fans over the past three seasons. With Chelsea and PSG both having knocked each other out in the past two Champions League campaigns, the two European giants are set to lock horns yet again, but this time the circumstances differ heavily.

The French side are going about their title defence as usual, topping Ligue 1 with an unbeaten record this year, winning every game but 4 and leading by a massive 24 points. Across the channel Chelsea are only just beginning to look like turning around an almighty mess, with the London club now 12 domestic games unbeaten under Guus Hiddink as they head into this clash in a far more healthier position than they were the last time they played Champions League Football.

As Paris Saint-Germain’s name were pulled out the pot on the 6th of December, it seemed inevitable as to the club that would follow them. The two clubs meet each other in the Champions League last 16 after PSG finished second best to Real Madrid, and Chelsea leaving it to the final group game to top a tight group ahead of Ukranian side Dynamo Kiev.

Although finishing as runners up and having the disadvantage of the second leg away from home, many see PSG as comfortable favourites for this tie. This argument is strongly backed up by the fact PSG are without a loss domestically this season, a stat their English counterparts could only dream of. Chelsea though, will look to their record in the Champions League, only being knocked out in the Last 16 three times since 2004 and only once failing to progress past the group stages since that time.

Furthermore, if there were ever a resemblance to Chelsea’s most successful season ever this would be it. Rewind to 2012, Chelsea’s season looked dead and buried with their top 4 aspirations extinguished, their Champions League hopes written off and the possibility of another FA Cup trophy the only remaining beacon of hope for Chelsea fans.

Come May the rest was history with arguably Chelsea’s weakest ever squad defying every obstacle that was presented to them and claiming an unlikely Cup double. The circumstances are very similar four years later yes, but the question on the tip of every Chelsea fan’s tongue is, will the outcome of this season follow the same path as it did in 2012?

History and Team News

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Chelsea and PSG have met each other 6 times in Champions League history. In the Group stage of 2004, Jose Mourinho’s side bested PSG both home and away. However, after the takeover of Nasser Al-Khelaifi in 2011 and the rise in stature of the French club, the last four meetings have been much closer affairs. With the clubs meeting in the knockout stages on both occasions, it has been left to late drama and away goals to decide the fate of each tie.

One man who will be missing from the lineup that figured last time out against PSG is captain John Terry who suffered a muscular injury against Newcastle and is a doubt for not only this game, but the vital FA Cup tie against Manchester City on Sunday. He, along with Kurt Zouma, Radamel Falcao and Alexandre Pato, will remain in London.

Nemanja Matic will be unavailable for this first leg in this tie after picking up two bookings within the group stage, however Brazilian Oscar has travelled and should return after a minor calf injury. Paris Saint-Germain will look to recall several of the players that were rested for the 0-0 draw with Lille on Saturday, with players such as Thiago Motta, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva being returning to the starting XI. However Marco Veratti is unlikely to start after just returning from an injury, and Serge Aurier has been suspended by the club with regards to comments he recently made about his manager Laurent Blanc.

Key Battles

  • Baba Rahman vs Angel Di Maria
  • Willian vs Maxwell
  • Diego Costa vs David Luiz
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs Gary Cahill

Statistics

  • PSG have conceded the least amount of goals in this season’s Champions League (1), being followed by Chelsea in second place (3).
  • 4 of Willian’s 5 goals in the 2015/16 Champions League have been from free-kick’s.
  • Angel Di Maria is PSG’s top scorer in the Champions League this season with 3, one ahead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lucas Moura.
  • Guus Hiddink has managed 6 Champions League games in charge of Chelsea and is yet to suffer defeat (2W, 4D, 0L)