Seven months into the season, just two defeats. One was away to Real Madrid, the other just over a week ago at Olympique Lyonnais. Paris Saint-Germain have been an absolute force and the 23-point lead at the top of the Ligue 1 table echoes that. Yet, critics will still say that it will all count for nothing if PSG fail to make it into the last-eight of the Champions League tomorrow night.
It sounds absurd to say that but it’s true. The French champions are ultimately going to be judged on their performance in Europe. We know that the team is head and shoulders above everyone else domestically. The fact that they are on course for a back-to-back quadruple illustrates that. So after three successive quarter-finals, the next step is of course to try and make it into the last-four. Getting there is easier said than done of course but if the team can overcome Chelsea for a second successive season, then there is no reason why this can’t be the year.
I said prior to the 2-1 first-leg victory that the pressure was on Paris. This was the first time that we were actually made favourites for a heavyweight European clash for over two decades. Chelsea’s pedigree in Europe is vastly superior to ours but they had been struggling in the Premier League, whereas we are running riot with another league title all but won.
That first-leg victory was massive. We really needed an advantage to take to London. The Blues have turned their fortunes around under Guus Hiddink. We are the only side to have beaten them so far during his tenure but he will have taken heart from their performance in Paris as well as the away goal that Jon Obi Mikel scored. For a large part in the first-half, they were the better team in my opinion. They were sharper and more attentive with their play. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s opener came at a good time for us in truth as it was the visitors who were probing.
The squad will travel to London today with Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti. There is no guarantee either will play due to their fitness issues but it’s a good sign so far. The fact they are making the trip bodes well for their inclusion. Coach Laurent Blanc will no doubt give more clarity this evening in his pre-match presser.
As for Chelsea, skipper John Terry will miss the game as he did at the Parc des Princes. However, striker Diego Costa should be fit after doubts were raised over him as he missed their 1-1 draw last weekend at home to Stoke City due to a tendon issue.
This is a huge night for both clubs. Chelsea need to win in order to keep their hopes of qualifying for next season’s competition alive (as they will finish outside the top four in the Premier league). And the pressure is certainly on us as we are expected to go through due to our aggregate lead and the expectation from France. If PSG fail to do so, you can imagine the headlines? Chelsea are currently 10th in the Premier league. But, even though their credentials in this competition eclipse anything in comparison to what we have done in it, it is about the here and now. Paris Saint-Germain simply have to go through as they did last season!
Little Marco Verratti pretty much said the same in an interview he did with The Guardian this week. The Italian said; “We need to keep possession, attack and go for an early goal. These are the games that we wait for all season. Being eliminated in the Champions League would be a bit of a disaster.”
His last sentence pretty much says it all.