The Champions League last 16 kicks off on Tuesday night with the most intriguing of the clashes featuring Paris St-Germain and Chelsea. London-based Chelsea travel to Paris for the first leg of a matchup that is a repeat of last season’s quarter-final. In last season’s contest, Jose Mourinho’s team lost the away leg 3-1, but did come back to win the tie with a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
This is a tricky tie to figure out. Chelsea are currently in full control of the English Premier League (EPL) title race and were impressive in the group stages winning four and drawing two in a group that also included Schalke, Sporting Lisbon and Maribor. They welcome talisman Diego Costa back into their side and besides an injury that will sideline John Obi Mikel, appear to have options at just about every position on the field.
It will be particularly interesting to see which way Mourinho goes in goal, where both Petr Cech and Thibaut Courtois are available.
Few things have gone wrong for Chelsea and Mourinho so far in this season. However, the experienced manager will know that the EPL title is far from secure and from this point onwards, one sloppy Champions League performance could be costly.
PSG are a difficult team to work out. They are currently a somewhat disappointing third in Ligue 1 (considering the investment in this squad) and recent domestic results have been frustrating. They managed only a 2-2 draw against 15th placed Caen at the weekend. They are only two points behind first-placed Lyon, but Laurent Blanc’s side will be seeking more consistency in that competition.
Their form in the Champions League was a different matter as they cruised through a group that included Barcelona, Ajax and Apoel Nicosia. They dropped just five points while finishing second in the group.
The French side are missing a few key players and Blanc confirmed that Lucas Moura, Yohan Cabaye and Serge Aurier will all miss out. Javier Pastore, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta are possibilities to play, in spites injury concerns, after being named in the squad.
Betting Preview: PSG win 7/4, Chelsea win 15/8, Draw 11/5
The odds have swung back and forth on this game. PSG started out as favourites, but Chelsea’s odds starting collected action. Since that adjustment, the odds have swung once again and PSG has the shorter odds.
After last season’s game, fully expect Mourinho to set his team up to stifle, rather than breakdown PSG. It might be a slightly anti-climatic pick, but it would not be a surprise if this game finished 0-0.
The Pick: Draw 11/5