Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - Page 18 News List

PSG seeking Champions League revenge at Chelsea

AFP, LONDON

Paris Saint-Germain’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic, right, vies for the ball with Wylan Cyprien of Racing Club de Lens in their Ligue 1 match at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

Eleven months on from their last visit to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, Paris Saint-Germain return to London today looking for confirmation of their place among the UEFA Champions League elite.

In last season’s quarter-finals, PSG traveled to London with a 3-1 lead from the first leg and with a huge 13-point advantage at the top of Ligue 1, only to crash out after Demba Ba’s 87th-minute strike took Chelsea through on away goals.

This season, a round earlier, the tie is even more evenly balanced at 1-1 and it is Chelsea who are dominating domestically, five points clear in the English Premier League with a game in hand, while in France, PSG trail Olympique Lyonnais by a point.

However, in contrast to last season’s trip to London, PSG have Zlatan Ibrahimovic fit and in form, with the giant Swede having scored his third goal in four games and provided a delightful assist for Javier Pastore in Saturday’s 4-1 defeat of Racing Club de Lens.

Laurent Blanc’s side have now gone 14 games without defeat in all competitions and despite their failure to recapture last season’s heights they remain in contention for an unprecedented four-trophy haul.

“Of course we have belief against Chelsea,” Blanc said. “We’re in an unfavorable situation because they scored that famous goal [Ba’s goal], which meant Paris didn’t reach the semi-finals for the second year in a row, but we have to do the same thing as them. If we’re as clinical as Chelsea were, I’ll take it.”

With PSG’s owners, Qatar Sports Investments, having taken over at the Parc de Princes eight years after Roman Abramovich first took his rubles to Stamford Bridge, the French champions have had to face the barrier of Financial Fair Play (FFP), which Chelsea did not have to worry about when Jose Mourinho was building the first great team of the Abramovich era.

The FFP sanctions that PSG were hit with last year restricted their close-season transfer activity, but they were nonetheless able to splash out an astonishing 50 million euros (US$54.5 million) to sign David Luiz from Chelsea.

The Brazil centerback aimed a tongue-in-cheek barb at Mourinho earlier this week, responding to a question about what made the “Special One” so special by saying: “But he’s special for you, not for me.”

Luiz deputized in defensive midfield for the first leg, but with Thiago Motta fit again after a calf injury, he is expected to return to central defense alongside Thiago Silva, who was rested against Lens.

In Lucas Moura’s absence, Pastore has been tipped to get the nod to line up alongside Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani — who canceled out Branislav Ivanovic’s opener in the first leg — in Blanc’s three-pronged attack.

Only John Obi Mikel is definitely out for Chelsea, with Nemanja Matic expected to return after a two-match domestic suspension, despite hurting his ankle during the celebrations that followed the 2-0 League Cup final victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley.

Chelsea have had more than a week to prepare for the game, having not played at the weekend, and centerback Gary Cahill said they have left no stone unturned.

“We’ve been able to really work on specific things in preparation for it,” the England defender, whose side hope to reach the last eight for the fourth time in five years, told the Chelsea Web site. “We know the quality of PSG and the job that lies ahead of us. It’s going to be like a final, a big one-off game, and we’ll be ready to go out there and give it everything we have to get us into the next round.”

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