With a first trophy of the season already in the bag and a second one looking ever more likely to be on the way, José Mourinho will on Wednesday aim to keep on track for the silverware he surely wants most of all, a Champions League crown with Chelsea.
The London club beat Tottenham in the Capital One Cup final at the start of the month before further strengthening their hold on the top of the Premier League with a 1-0 win at West Ham last week. They now enter the second leg of their Champions League Round-of-16 series against Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge with the score delicately poised at 1-1.
“We are very proud of winning our first trophy as a group together, and getting that win at West Ham, but they’re gone,” defender Gary Cahill told Chelsea’s official website. “All that is on our minds now is the PSG game and that’s all we are thinking about in the days leading up to it.”
Chelsea took the lead in the French capital three weeks ago through Branislav Ivanovic, but were hauled level in the second half by Edinson Cavani’s header and had to withstand late pressure on Thibaut Courtois’ goal. Still, they go into Wednesday’s second leg in a significantly healthier position than against the same opponents in last season’s quarterfinals. Then a 3-1 deficit left Chelsea requiring late drama to pull off a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea’s Champions League campaign was swiftly ended in the semifinals by Atletico Madrid to leave Mourinho still without the game’s biggest trophy at the club he has long insisted is closest to his heart. Lifting the prize with Chelsea would also enshrine Mourinho’s name in the history books as the only man to have won the European Cup with three different clubs, following his success with Porto and Inter Milan.
The season has so far been considerably less smooth for the team that stands in Chelsea’s way of a place in the last eight. By some distance the most financially powerful club in France, Paris Saint-Germain nevertheless find themselves locked in a continued battle for the Ligue 1 title. Despite dismissing Lens 4-1 on Saturday, surprise package Lyon moved back above them to the top of the standings the following day.
The pressure remains firmly on manager Laurent Blanc and it could well be that Wednesday’s encounter goes a long way to deciding his fate come the season’s end. Having spent huge amounts since taking over PSG in 2012, it is clear that the Qatari Investment Authority want to make the club a truly elite European power. After two successive quarterfinal exits, progression is sought. Going out a round earlier this time around would far from reflect well on Blanc’s two seasons in charge.
Blanc has been boosted for the challenge at Stamford Bridge by the return to the squad from injury of former Newcastle United midfielder Yohan Cabaye. Serge Aurier and Lucas Moura, though, remain on the sidelines. For Chelsea, Nemanja Matic is expected to be passed fit, despite injuring his ankle during the celebrations after the Capital One Cup final.
Prediction: PSG exceeded their performances for much of this season in the first leg and could easily have come away with an advantage against a Chelsea side that offered precious little going forward. But the French champions’ missed opportunities in the second half could well prove fatal to their hopes of progressing. Chelsea have been formidable at home this season, failing to win there just four times in all competitions. In 2014, they overcame a two-goal deficit to PSG with a significantly inferior squad. This time they should again progress, but without the need for late heroics.
Chelsea 2-0 PSG
Kickoff time: 3:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1