PSG may be the professional bookmakers’ favourites to win against Chelsea in their upcoming UEFA Champions League clash, but don’t rule the London side out – even if they are behind following the first leg. Guus Hiddink’s men have shown signs of overcoming from their early season form in the Premiership and now, without Mourhino, some a claiming there is a fully blown recovery is taking place despite the loss in Paris. Okay, Chelsea may need to improve a good deal more to convince everybody, but a strong performance in the final sixteen of the foremost European club competition would go a long way to proving that they still have class in their ranks. Can they manage to pull off a victory at Stamford Bridge? Let’s look at why they might.
When both sides met at the same stage of last year’s Champions League, Chelsea were on song and highly placed in the Premier League. This year, they are distinctly mid-table and this could be why writing them off would be such a mistake. If the West Londoners still harbour ambitions of a top four finish, then they know that it is likely to mean that teams above them slip up more than once. However where they are more likely to view themselves as masters of their own destiny is in the Champions League. PSG are not exactly facing a team with nothing to lose in all other competitions and who will therefore throw the kitchen sink at them, but the truth is not so far from this.
The first thing that can be said of Chelsea’s recent form is that it is respectable, certainly when compared to the disastrous opening to their season. They are unbeaten in English football in 2016. They have beaten big clubs – Arsenal and Manchester City – in the Premiership and the FA Cup respectively. Indeed, this year Chelsea has scored five goals in no less than three of their fixtures. When you compare the quality of their opposition to that which PSG have faced in the French Ligue 1, it is fair to say that Chelsea’s results are more impressive. PSG may be so far in front in their domestic league that nothing can now realistically stop them from becoming champions, but they are not facing the intensity of competition that Chelsea are on a weekly basis. Maybe PSG are simply not battle-hardened for the intense atmosphere of a London tie?
Then there is Chelsea’s away goal to consider. Because of it, the longer the second leg progresses at nil-nil, the more the French side have to fear. Just a single, well-taken sight of goal could be enough for the Blues to move onto the quarter-finals. Of course, that means keeping PSG at bay, but it is worth noting that Asmir Begovic and Thibaut Courtois both have four clean sheets to their name this season, so it is certainly possible. Expect a cagey first half with Chelsea trying to hit PSG with pace on the break. If do Chelsea score first, few would mind wagering a William Hill promo that the team could emerge triumphant.