Paris Saint-Germain have been praised for their performance in the 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Tuesday night. It was a heartfelt performance where we played the better football, created the most chances and almost came away with an aggregate lead to take back to Stamford Bridge in three weeks’ time. There were a number of reasons for the level of performance but it was the midfield trio of Blaise Matuidi, Marco Verratti and David Luiz who stole the show.
You need to have something about you if you are going to get the better of a Chelsea midfield. The Premier League leaders have guile, creativity and above all else power in the middle of the park but we not only matched that, we bettered them during the second-half.
Coach Laurent Blanc made a bold call ahead of kick-off. It was a huge one really for a game of this magnitude. He ushered David Luiz into the holding role in between the other two midfielders – the first time he has played there since signing for the club. The Frenchman’s hand was forced into this mind with Yohan Cabaye and Thiago Motta ruled out via injury but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Luiz excelled in that position, thus making a case for his long-term future to be within that role. He being moved there meant Marquinhos could be moved back into the centre of defence alongside the skipper Thiago Silva. The pair were steady as a rock all game. All three Brazilians being in the spine of the team were absolutely pivotal in repelling Chelsea’s attacks, as well as playing the ball from the back.
Luiz gave us so much energy. He was willing to pick up the ball. He constantly had his head up to spread the play. Kept things simple when needed and played with a real level of maturity. He undertook the responsibility so well and it was pleasure to see. The tenacity to get stuck in and rile Diego Costa also demonstrated his cunning nature to ruffle feathers. He may be one of the most infectious personalities off the pitch but he showed a smidgen of spitefulness which we have rarely seen – and we want to see more of!
He had 99 touches of the ball, the most of any PSG player. His 94% passing accuracy was only bettered by Thiago Silva and played 11 long balls, with 10 being accurate. Those kind of statistics emphasis the influence he had on the game.
Little Marco Verratti kept us ticking over beautifully. The stocky Italian of course picked up a yellow card – of course he did! But we will let him off this time around. The number 24 was marvellous. His ball retention was just absolutely sublime. The fact that he was contesting a midfield against the likes of Ramires, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas, yet looked the most composed man on the pitch said it all. For such a little player, he uses his body so well to shield the ball. Then there are those Paul Scholes like wing mirrors he has to pick out a pass from the tightest of spaces. It was one of his most mature performances in a PSG shirt, there is no doubt about it.
He had the second most amount of touches from a PSG player with 96, just three short of Luiz with a passing accuracy of 92%. Like his Brazilian teammate, superb statistics.
Then there was the man of the match. The engine! Blaise Matuidi. I feared for BM before the game. He picked up a knock against Caen which put his participation in doubt. There was absolutely no need to worry as he showed no ill effects and was the best player on the pitch!
We know Blaise runs his socks off every single week. There was no exception in this game either. We needed his legs in midfield to stretch Chelsea which he did on numerous occasions. On top of that, defensively, he tracked back as per usual, squeezing the opposition. It was a typical Matuidi performance but one that was recognised across Europe. People who don’t get to see witness PSG on a frequent basis will have studied his display against the Blues and remember it vividly. He epitomised everything about PSG on the night. Heart, desire, drive! His clever interplay with Edinson Cavani late on almost resulted in a winner. Had it gone in the Parc des Princes would have took off as the Parisians willed the team on.
Although Chelsea may have got the better result, Les Parisiens performed admirably and it was largely down to the midfield trio.
Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com