Blaise Matuidi described the 6-1 victory over Lille last Saturday as the team’s best performance of the season. It would be hard to disagree with that, although I believe the Chelsea display at Stamford Bridge was the exceptional display. There was a fluidity and belief to the performance against Lille that was severely lacking in the games against Barcelona. Of course, the difference in opposition was a world apart but you could see that the lads let the shackles off, almost playing without any pressure.
Going out of the Champions League was a disappointment of course but also a reality check. Credit to the team though that they did not let it affect them. There was no hangover whatsoever. Maybe a sense of relief was there also. They have played five season defining games since the turn of April (Le Classique, Coupe de France semi-final, Coupe de la Ligue Final and a two-legged Champions League quarter-final). Yet, they have come out of the other end with only a European exit. They deserve an enormous amount of adulation for their efforts.
This is now the final sprint for the lads. The victory over Lille was pivotal in terms of keeping the league title in our own hands. Les Dogues’ defensive line had a shocker but you still need to put the ball in the back of the net. We were clinical in front of goal and the front three of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Edinson Cavani and Javier Pastore were fundamental to the victory. The chemistry was as good as we have seen from the PSG attack all season. Interestingly it did not involve Zlatan Ibrahimovic which puts a question mark over his position in the team. There have been a number of cases this season where some of our best displays have not involved the big Swede.
Lyon’s win over Stade de Reims yesterday means we dropped to second via goal difference. But we do have this game in hand tomorrow night at home to Metz. Three points there will put us within sight of a third consecutive title. Goal difference could very well be a factor in this as well so the mauling of Lille was massive! Lyon have a GD of +39, we have +35. I can guarantee Laurent Blanc will have a made a point of this to his players. Victory is key but another goal rush against a side that is on the brink of relegation is not out of the question.
The meeting at the Stade Saint-Symphorien last November was an intense affair. FCM actually came back from two goals down but it was Ezequiel Lavezzi who netted a late winner. Laurent Blanc made a change at half-time during that game by bringing off Thiago Motta for Blaise Matuidi who was just coming back from a broken hand. BM was accompanied by Clement Chantome and Adrein Rabiot in the midfield trio but we just capitulated in that area. Credit to Metz they gave us a run for our money in that second period but thankfully Pocho saved the day.
Thiago Silva is back and has been named in the squad. Salvatore Sirigu, Yohan Cabaye, Serge Aurier, Jean-Christophe Bahebeck and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are the notable absentees.