One of the most evenly balanced of all the quarter final games, PSG and Chelsea both came into the match trying to build each other up as favourites. The Parc Des Princes, the venue that hosted the first ever European Cup final, was decked up and full of noisy and expectant fans. The two teams come from very different leagues, and have had good seasons, but are in different positions. While PSG have been dominant and conquered all that has been put in front of them, Chelsea have stuttered at times, losing their advantage in the league. The clash between Laurent Blanc and Mourinho also promised to be a very interesting battle tactically, as some of the top players in Europe clashed.
PSG 3-1 Chelsea
PSG: Sirigu; Jallet; Alex; Thiago Silva; Maxwell; Veratti (Cabaye, 76); Matuidi; Motta; Cavani; Lavezzi (Pastore, 85); Ibrahimovic (Moura, 68).
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic; Cahill; Terry; Azpilicueta; Ramires; David Luiz; Willian; Oscar (Lampard, 72); Hazard; Schurrle (Torres, 59).
PSG dropping deep
In recent times, a criticism that has been leveled against this Chelsea side is its inability to break down teams that sit back and defend. When the opposition in willing to attack, Chelsea do a swell job of sitting deep, soaking up the pressure, and playing on the break with the likes of Willian and Hazard proving very effective, but they haven’t been able to beat down teams that do the same to them. Chelsea seem a vulnerable to counter attacks in such situations, as Crystal Palace showed on the weekend.
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PSG and Blanc wanted to attempt something similar for this game. Early on, the home side attacked with a lot of verve and vigour, putting Chelsea under pressure from the word go. There were passes into the box, pressure high up the pitch, and a lot of speed in the attacking play from the Parisians. However, this only lasted for around the first 15 minutes. PSG, after taking the lead looked to withdraw into their shells. The line dropped deep, the passing was restricted to deeper areas as they looked to invite Chelsea onto them, and counter with the pace of Lavezzi. The phase of play that led to the yellow card for Ramires for his foul on Lavezzi is the perfect example of PSG’s game plan.
Lack of forward presence
Much like he did for the match against United at Old Trafford, Mourinho started Andre Schurrle in an advanced role. The German was used as a striker, playing ahead of the likes of Oscar, Hazard and Willian.
While this development did a lot for Chelsea in defensive terms (more on that later), it adversely affected them going forward. There were a number of occasions when Chelsea had the ball in interesting areas of the pitch, but couldn’t really hurt PSG because they lacked a presence in the penalty box. Silva and Alex were relatively comfortable for large parts, as they didn’t really have a direct threat to deal with, and only had to clean up whenever the Chelsea players got the ball near the box.
PSG too slow
PSG did very well to attack Chelsea from the outset and take the lead, but as part of their game plan, they then began to sit back to try and invite Chelsea onto them. PSG were attempting to play on the break. They tried to go deep, and pass the ball among their deeper players in order to invite Chelsea to press, and then break behind them. However PSG made a mistake while doing so. The tempo of the passes being played in the deeper regions of the field was too slow, and too often, Chelsea were able to win the ball off them and launch attacks. Even the penalty came from such an instance, with PSG giving the ball away cheaply in midfield, and Chelsea breaking quickly.
A large part of the reason for this was the positioning of Motta and Veratti. Both of them took up deep positions, where they were looking to receive the ball from the defence, while Matuidi, who was tasked with supporting the attack duly obliged. This meant that PSG didn’t really have a link in midfield, to join the whole team’s attacking play together. Chelsea were able to capitalise on this. It also meant that PSG’s star player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had to drop deeper to try and receive the ball and influence the play.
In the second half, this changed, and allowed PSG to dominate the midfield. veratti was playing slightly higher up the field, and when he was replaced by Cabaye, the French midfield maestro played even higher to allow PSG to dominate this area, and as a result, boss the possession. The French side also increased the tempo at which they passed the ball in the second half, and chasing the game did them a world of good. The midfield dominance meant that they had effectively snuffed out the source of Chelsea’s attacks, and were able to concetrate on their own game. It was the key area, because dominance of midfield with a strike force such as theirs was bound result in goals.
Chelsea missing Schurrle
In a game that was won by PSG’s midfielders, Chelsea really missed their monster in the middle, Nemanja Matic. However, Jose had almost compensated for his absence with Andre Schurrle. The energetic German did a lot of defensive work while he was on, dropping deep and helping his midfielders stop PSG. In the first half, this worked very well, as a combination of PSG playing deeper and Chelsea closing down aggressively led to good results.
In the second half though, Mourinho took a risk, and replaced Schurrle with Torres. The aim was to have a player who would position himself close to the PSG centre backs and provide some presence in the box going forward. Mourinho was gambling for the win on the night, but unfortunately fro him, the risk back-fired. PSG scored both their goals after Schurrle was off, and this isn’t a coincidence. With the constantly hustling and harrying Schurrle out of the way, the PSG midfield dominated the game, and created chances for their forwards.
Where does this leave them?
For Chelsea, this match must have brought back memories of that horrible match at Juventus last season, or Man City in the FA Cup semi’s. The midfield was completely dominated by PSG, especially in the second half. The defenders have to take their fair share of the blame, but really, the team was run ragged by some very good passing, orchestrated by the incredible Thiago Motta. At 2-1, the tie was in the balance, but 3-1 puts PSG firmly in the driver’s seat. The Parisians did very well in the second half to probably secure their semi final spot. A tough 90 minutes at Stamford bridge awaits them, but on the basis of this performance, they probably have what it takes to go through. The final score of PSG 3-1 Chelsea was nothing more than what the home side deserve.
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