Three key battles in Paris Saint-Germain v Chelsea
Gregor Vasconcelos analyses three of the key match-ups in PSG v Chelsea
Ibrahimovic v Cahill and Terry
While the absence of Lucas Moura will be a relief to Gary Cahill, who often struggles against pacey forwards, Chelsea’s centre-halves will still be faced with a handful in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At the age of 33, the giant Swede shows no signs of slowing down, still being arguably the best centre-forward in the world. He has been PSG’s top-scorer in the past two seasons and has already bagged himself 15 in the current campaign. Chelsea’s defence has been solid throughout this season, but they will have to be on extra-alert when they face Ibrahimovic. John Terry has excelled, but Cahill has struggled recently and has at times been left out in favour of Kurt Zouma despite the Frenchman’s lack of experience.
Hazard v Van der Wiel
Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s best player last season and that form has carried over to this campaign. The Belgian has scored 13 goals already this season, taking advantage of the Blues’ new attacking impetus. His main quality is to run at defenders, which will not please his opponent Gregory van der Wiel. The Dutchman has been alternating with Serge Aurier, starting 14 of their 25 league games and all six of their Champions League ties. Van der Wiel’s main qualities are going forward, but he will have to keep an eye out for Hazard’s direct running, which will exploit the right-back’s main weakness, his defending. Serge Aurier would perhaps be more suited to this game, but his injury at the weekend means van der Wiel is set to start.
Fabregas v Motta
Thiago Motta will have the thankless task of following Cesc Fabregas around the Parc-des-Princes on Tuesday. Fabregas has become so integral to every aspect of Chelsea’s play that seemingly, every move goes through him. His influence is practically impossible to completely nullify and that is the Motta’s mission. Fabregas has created 19 goals already this season, as well as scoring four himself. He is Chelsea’s heartbeat and if PSG manage to stifle his influence, they could potentially keep Costa out of the game as well, considering the tandem the two work in. It is a difficult task, but if accomplished they have a much better shot of winning the game. It’s not as if Motta has never done something of the kind. In Inter Milan’s Champions League winning season in 2009/10, he managed to keep Barcelona’s dream mid-field for the 3-1 win at the San Siro. On the return leg he got sent off. His temperament will be as important as his performance.