Chelsea have the task of overturning a 2-1 first leg deficit if they are to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League, with Paris St. Germain intent on ending their hopes for the second season in succession.
It was a closer game than many expected when the sides met in the French capital in mid-February as Chelsea for the most part defended well and managed to grab the all-important away goal through the unlikely source that was John Obi Mikel. Their undoing on the night proved to be a deflected free-kick from Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a failure to track Edinson Cavani, with the Uruguayan proving ruthless when the chance came his way.
The key here for the home side will not be to come out all guns blazing and commit too many men forward in search of the opening goal which would put them ahead in the tie. PSG possess too much quality in attack for gaps to be left, so a disciplined performance is required by Guus Hiddink’s men, for whom the Champions League has taken on extra importance as qualification for next season’s competition through the Premier League still seems unlikely despite a storming run of late.
Hiddink will bring back a couple of his big guns for this one having rested them for their last two outings against Norwich City and Stoke City, where the team still managed to take four points. Diego Costa will look to torment the away backline on his return to the team, while the set-pieces that Willian puts into the penalty area have the potential to be key in deciding the outcome.
But Chelsea should also be fully aware of the danger that PSG pose from dead-ball situations as both of their goals at Stamford Bridge last season came from corners, so they will come under threat from all angles. Cavani will need to be closely marked at all times, while the tireless work that Blaise Matuidi gets through in the midfield has to be matched.
Since taking charge at the club, PSG manager Laurent Blanc has done a fine job domestically and is about to oversee a Ligue 1 title win for the third year in a row as they are so far clear at the top, but the former France World Cup winner will primarily be judged on his level of success on the continent, so it is crucial for him that they make it through this tie as they look to get past the quarter-finals for the first time.
It again appears that there will be little to choose between the sides and although PSG are currently the stronger side, Chelsea can never be ruled out, especially as a result of the confidence they are playing with at present. Just one goal for the Blues and they will be on course to advance, but this is all about how they cope defensively. It could go all the way.