After a loss to Crystal Palace that probably cost the club any realistic aspirations of winning the league title, Chelsea will very much be hoping to avoid the description in George Orwell’s novel of being ‘Down and Out in Paris and London” when PSG visit Stamford Bridge tomorrow.
The Champions League, whilst probably containing the classiest collection of clubs in the last eight for many a year, probably represents Chelsea’s only –semi-realistic chance of a trophy this year, and manager Jose Mourinho will be keen to keep that dream alive for as long as possible. Progressing past the French champions will however be no easy feat. PSG arrive with a formidable 3-1 lead, and the injury time goal netted by Pastore in the Parc de Princes, may well have taken the tie beyond the London club.
Chelsea have been here before however. In their glory 2012 run in the competition, they faced a similar ask against a Napoli side that at the time included the now PSG stars Cavani and Lavezzi. It would be folly to rule the Blues out, but a goal from the French team would need the home side needing four goals, and that may be just too much. This PSG outfit are a notch or two above the Napoli team that Chelsea achieved that score against.
A further complication is of course that there is no Didier Drogba to inspire and lead in the current Chelsea set up, and after Fernando Torres turned in a fairly ordinary performance in the weekend’s 3-0 triumph over Stoke City, Mourinho may well be tempted to risk Samuel Eto’o to lead the line. The Cameroon international is recovering from injury, but if there’s a chance of him being fit to play, he may well be gambled, as Mourinho appears to not trust any other of his strikers, and playing Schurrle in the front role at home, despite his earnest endeavours is probably just not feasible with a minimum requirement of two goals.
Aside from keeping the club’s European hopes alive, under the surface, there’s another reason why Mourinho will be especially keen to progress past PSG. The French club have let it be known that they harbour hopes of landing the Blues’ star player Eden Hazard, and also have an interest in Brazil playmaker Oscar. The Portuguese will want to demonstrate that the best option for the players, and their aspirations of success, will be served in London rather than Paris.
It promises to be a night full of tension on Tuesday, but an early goal for the home team could set up a pulsating evening. Should Chelsea progress, the quality left in the tournament would probably preclude a team in development winning the trophy this season. Mourinho however welcome the chance to make a statement about how his club is still on the up, rather than being down and out.
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