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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Five reasons to believe PSG can beat Chelsea

French Champions PSG take on Chelsea in the second leg of their Champions last-16 clash on Wednesday. While Chelsea are favourites The Local fancies PSG to cause an upset and take revenge against the London club.

Five reasons to believe PSG can beat Chelsea
Will Zlatan make the difference against Chelsea tonight? Photo: AFP

Eleven months on, but with the same coach and broadly the same team, Paris Saint-Germain return to Chelsea on Wednesday seeking to prove their worth as a Champions League force.

In last season's quarter-finals, PSG came to Stamford Bridge leading 3-1 from the first leg and with a huge 13-point advantage in 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 more delicately balanced at 1-1, but it is Chelsea, the Premier League leaders who are still favourites to come out on top.

But if we forget about favourite's tag for a moment there are plenty of reasons why PSG can go into Wednesday’s second leg confident of pulling off an upset.

Here are five:

1.    Revenge

In interviews with the press, players will almost always trawl out the line that “It’s not about revenge…” or “Revenge is not a motivation, we are professionals… blah blah.” But let’s face it, the desire for payback is a huge motivator. Granted it’s not the key factor, but the fact PSG’s team is almost the same as the one that faced Chelsea last year means the pain of that late goal will be burned into their memory. Make no mistake about it, they will be desperate to get one over Jose Mourinho’s men. That desire for retribution might just help focus their minds and help ease any pre-match nerves.

2.    Form

After coming in for criticism earlier in the season for the slugging form in the league, Laurent Blanc’s men have hit their stride at just the right time. Even before last weekend’s 4-1 demolition of Lens, PSG were showing signs they are clicking just as they enter the business end of the season. Laurent Blanc's side have now gone 14 matches 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.

3.    They need to score

PSG took a 3-1 lead to Stamford Bridge for last year’s quarter-final second leg and no doubt the fans, the players, the coach and the Qatari owner wish they had the same advantage this time round. But perhaps they do have an advantage of sorts. Last year they knew they could lose by one goal to nil and still go through. It resulted in a fairly anaemic performance as players showed little attacking ambition. Basically they were caught between stick and twist. But footballers like things to be simple. PSG know they have to score tonight, which is a much easier way to approach a game. "We know what we have to do,” said Laurent Blanc. "And Chelsea too, although they also have to ask themselves whether to attack or defend. But we know we have to score at least one goal to qualify."

And with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the team they are highly capable of doing just that, which would blow the tie wide open. Which brings us to the next reason to stake a bet on the French champions.

4.    What Zlatan wants, Zlatan normally gets

Perhaps the biggest difference from last year is that PSG’s star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic will play a role. He missed out through injury last year, but this time he’s bang 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 Lens. The pony-tailed Swede is often accused of disappearing in the big games, especially when he’s come up against English clubs in the competition. But once again, Zlatan being Zlatan you know he’ll have his moment. Zlatan of course has never won a Champions League title and he dearly wants to before he hangs up those big boots. And once again, Zlatan normally gets what he wants. This might be his last chance for glory.

(Stats and Infographic supplied by Opta-powered fantasy football game www.oulala.com)

5.    Chelsea are not invincible

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team have looked invincible at times this season, but they have also shown themselves to be vulnerable. Even lowly Bradford scored four against them at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup, albeit with a weakened team. Spurs put 5 past them recently and Premier Strugglers Burnley came away from Chelsea with a 1-1 draw. Playmaker Cesc Fabregas is not the player he was at the start of the season when he was setting up goals for fun and striker Diego Costa has not quite found his rhythm since returning from a ban.

Big-spending PSG are desperate to join European football’s elite, but they need a big scalp in the Champions League to even suggest they are ready to be considered as a football powerhouse.

Tonight might just be the night.

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

PSG confident of Real Madrid scalp despite Neymar’s absence

Paris Saint-Germain remain optimistic that they can record what would be the biggest victory since the Qatari takeover of the club, even with Neymar out injured, when they face Real Madrid on Tuesday. Can they do it?

PSG confident of Real Madrid scalp despite Neymar's absence
AFP

A late collapse saw PSG lose 3-1 in Madrid last month in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. And they come into Tuesday's return without Neymar, as the world's most expensive player recovers in Brazil from a foot operation.

Despite that blow, and the prospect of having to overturn such a deficit against the two-time reigning European champions, PSG are not throwing in the
towel as they bid to reach the quarter-finals.

“I think that we need games like this and to beat these teams to take a step forward and so that our opponents really take notice of PSG, and don't just think we have loads of money,” said Dani Alves, who played in two Champions League final victories for Barcelona and was in the Juventus side beaten by Real in last season's final.

“I said last summer when I was presented here that I wasn't coming just to live in Paris or take the money. I came here because I am a competitor,” added
Alves, speaking to media at the Parc des Princes on the eve of the game.

After Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, PSG had four successive quarter-final defeats in the Champions League before the
humiliation in Barcelona in the last 16 a year ago.

A failure to turn the tie around on Tuesday would mean PSG being eliminated by one of Spain's big two for the fourth time in six seasons.

“PSG have had their limits in this competition in the past and now we need to go beyond them to keep on progressing as a club,” added Alves.

Neymar's absence is an obviously huge blow, but Alves and coach Unai Emery both insisted that Paris have enough quality in their ranks to cope without
him.

“When one player is missing, it opens the door for someone else, and I know that whoever comes in through that door will do so with all their force,” said
Emery.

Angel Di Maria, who won the Champions League with Real in 2014, is likely to be the major beneficiary of Neymar's absence.

The Argentine has been PSG's form player with 13 goals in 14 starts in 2018, although he has played just 67 minutes in the Champions League this
season.

“He is a spectacular player, who made history with Real Madrid. He can play in any position across the middle, he moves well, has a good shot, and is quick,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

No margin for error

Di Maria has a point to prove, as does Emery, who took charge of his 100th PSG game at the weekend.

His contract expires in June and there is surely no prospect of a renewal in the event of a defeat, even with PSG on course for a domestic clean sweep.

The pressure is also on Zidane, albeit less so after the manner of their first-leg victory.

Cristiano Ronaldo, whose brace in the first leg took him past 100 Champions League goals for Real, is in form again and the Spanish giants have not been knocked out at this stage of the competition since 2010.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday), after the game, it's going to be difficult for one of the two teams, but that is football,” said Zidane.

Fifteen points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona and out of the Copa del Rey, Real are throwing everything into their quest to win a third consecutive Champions League.

“That can mean added pressure or added motivation,” said captain Sergio Ramos. “We are focusing everything on the Champions League and the margin for error is minimal.”

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric trained on the Parc des Princes pitch on Monday evening and could play after spells on the sidelines with respective knee and thigh problems.

Javier Pastore, who had been a slight doubt with a calf problem, was named in the PSG squad.