Paris St Germain v Chelsea: Champions League preview


Chelsea will face second place Ligue 1 side Paris St Germain in a rematch of the exhilarating 2013-14 Champions League Quarterfinal where the London side was able to overcome a 3-1 first leg deficit with an 87’ minute goal by Demba Ba to advance to the semifinals with a 2-0 home victory.

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  • PSG is a side that primarily plays in possession, controlling 60-percent of the ball during the 2014-15 Ligue 1 season, but is also dangerous on the counter attack. They play a 4-3-3 formation with center forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing as a target man, looking to finish chances when PSG retain possession.

    When PSG attacks on the counter Zlatan lays as a creator dropping deep and attempting to play in their athletic wingers Edison Cavani and Lucas Moura behind their oppositions defensive line. Cavani is a converted forward who is physical, quick, strong with the ball at his feet, a dangerous dribbler, and reliable in tracking back defensively. Moura is a quick attacker who brings flair and danger when he is allowed to dribble directly at his opposition.

    PSG boast a strong central midfield that includes the complementary players Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verrati, and Thiago Motta. Matuidi is the most complete of the trio with a style of play built around energy and physicality that is complimented with technique.

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    Verrrati is a diminutive central midfielder who compensates for his lack of size and energy with an exquisite touch and passing ability. Motta is the hardman bringing physicality and intensity to PSG’s central midfield while providing protection to his centerbacks.

    If PSG has a weakness, it is in their defensive line which has conceded seven goals during the group stage. Thiago Silva marshals PSG’s defensive line and in many circles he is still regarded as the most complete and best centerback in world football. David Luiz is one of the most technically skilled centerbacks in the world and can bring an attacking presence from deep, but is still inconsistent with his defending which allows the defensive errors that cost teams Champions League ties.

    PSG offers two attack-minded fullbacks who are threats to provide service from advanced wide areas but defensively lack positional awareness and can be exploited by teams who are strong at attacking from wide areas.

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  • PSG also boast a collection of weapons off the bench including central midfielders Yohan Cabaye, Javier Pastore, winger Ezequiel Lavezzi, rightback Serge Aurier, and centerback Marquinhos.

    Mourinho, who prefers to build his team around defensive solidity, will play his preferred deep defensive line looking to deny space to PSG’s athletic wingers nullifying their pace. He will also attempt to protect John Terry, who is physical enough to battle with Ibrahimovic but is susceptible to Ibrahimovic’s excellent positioning against high defensive lines. Mourinho will instruct his fullbacks, Branislav Ivanovic and Cesar Azpilicueta, to sit deeper, not allowing attacking lanes for PSG’s dangerous wingers.

    The battle that will determine the flow and style of the match will be in the central midfield where PSG can either play with the trio of Matuidi, Verrati and Motta, or push David Luiz forward to the holding midfield position and replace Luiz with Marquinhos. Chelsea’s tactics will be set by how Mourinho aligns his center midfield. Against better competition Mourinho prefers to create scrappy contests and will look to occupy all of PSG’s central midfielders.


    They will most likely play a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a 2-1 center midfield, to interlock both teams’ central midfields and create a situation where every PSG player has a natural marker and limited space to create scoring opportunities. Ramires could deputize for Oscar, with Fabregas pushed in to the advanced role to provide more energy, defensive stability, and battling spirit to Chelsea’s central midfield.

    If Chelsea fall behind in the tie and need to open up the match to create scoring opportunities they would most likely switch to a 4-3-3, with a 1-2 central midfield allowing their holding midfielder, Nemanja Matic the space to control Chelsea’s attack and using Oscar and Fabregas as a central midfield pair. Matic would also be free to mark the deep positioning of Ibrahimovic during PSG counter attacks.

    “The primary difference in this matchup compared to last season is the addition of center forward Diego Costa, who brings a lethal scoring threat, to Chelsea’s front line…

    The primary difference in this matchup compared to last season is the addition of center forward Diego Costa, who brings a lethal scoring threat, to Chelsea’s front line. In the previous tie, in the first match Mourinho unsuccessfully used Shurrle as a “False 9” who attempted to make runs behind PSG’s high defensive line and in the second match Mourinho used 32-year-old Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba in attack.

    The battle between Chelsea’s wingers and PSG’s fullbacks could very well decide the match. To allow their wingers the freedom to cut centrally and attack, PSG is dependent on width from their very attack minded fullbacks, Gregory van der Wiel and Maxwell. Both are attacking threats but are defensive liabilities as well.

    They must balance their attacking instincts with defensive solidity as they must control Chelsea’s dangerous left winger Eden Hazard and right winger Andre Shurrle, who with his directness and width will put more pressure on Maxwell.

    The first match between PSG and Chelsea will take place on February 17 at the Parc des Princes with the return leg on March 11 at Stamford Bridge.