Chelsea turns to Stamford Bridge support for challenge vs. Paris Saint-Germain
LONDON — Chelsea face the fight of their lives as they play host to Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg of their UEFA UEFA Champions league quarterfinal tie (live, FOX Sports 1, Tuesday, 2:30 p.m. ET) with a 3-1 deficit to overcome. Battered by a rapacious Parisian offense last week at the Parc des Princes and victimized by a dreadful late goal, the Blues must score at least twice to have a chance in this match. The problem? According to their own manager, they "lack strikers."
Mourinho uttered those infamous words after a first leg in which he fielded a team with no recognized striker at all, preferring Andre Schurrle to the misfiring Fernando Torres. It was a gambit that backfired and now Mourinho faces a difficult choice Tuesday as his preferred No. 1, Samuel Eto’o, faces a race against time. Battling a hamstring injury, Eto’o has not featured since he pulled up during Chelsea’s 6-0 emasculation of Arsenal in late March. Saturday, Mourinho indicated that an unfit Eto’o might be better than a fully fit Torres.
"Maybe I will pick [Eto’o]" said Mourinho. "But if you think he’s going to be out after ten minutes of the game you can’t take that risk. If there are a minimum conditions of risk, then yes. We need to score goals. If we don’t score a minimum of two goals we are out. If we have everybody available who can give us a chance to score goals, well then let’s do that."
"If you only concede one goal against PSG, or keep a clean sheet you can do the job," Mourinho continued. "So it is important for us to defend well. But even if we concede one goal we can give them a fight."
This situation is hardly uncharted territory for Chelsea: in 2012, they overcame the same deficit in the round of 16 against Napoli, a win which provided the fuel for their unlikely run to the title. The difference? That team had a big striker, Didier Drogba — and he sparked the comeback by scoring the first goal. As it happens, Chelsea have never beat PSG at Stamford Bridge — and PSG have lost just one game by two clear goals in their last 110 matches overall.
But Chelsea have stopped the slide which began with that damaging 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace. Saturday, they hammered a Stoke side that never looked like challenging 3-0. Goals from Frank Lampard and Willian were joined by a strike from Mohamed Salah, making his full debut for Chelsea.
Meanwhile, PSG had similarly easy win Saturday, downing Reims 3-0 behind a sterling performance from Edinson Cavani, and helped along by two own goals forced by Lucas Moura and Ezequiel Lavezzi.
PSG will look to do the same thing in London that it did is Paris: break with power and pace and disrupt Chelsea’s counters. Willian and Eden Hazard remain the Blues’ most dangerous players, and both were well contained last time out by PSG’s five-man midfield with Blaise Matuidi and Lavezzi tireless presences in the heart of the park.
But Paris also have a big hole up top. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out of the Chelsea match (hamstring) and is a doubt now for the semifinal as well. While Cavani and Lavezzi have shown they can fill the space, there is no mistaking how talismanic the big Swede has been to PSG’s continued success. Chelsea are without Ramires (suspended) and of course have several players ineligible for the competition.
One advantage Chelsea do have is the comforts of home. Mourinho has made Stamford Bridge into a fortress, and he is clearly counting on that to continue Tuesday night.
"I think at home [Chelsea] feel more comfortable," said Mourinho. "The team has more of the ball, they close down better they are more aggressive. But you have some matches where you have to change your profile. It takes time, it goes step by step. For some of the boys it is not so easy to adapt to different realities, but to be champions, you have to play in sun, rain, small pitches, big pitches, possession football, direct football — to be champions you have to do all this."
Frank Lampard was more guarded in his assessment, saying: "You’re looking at a stronger team [than Napoli] but with the squad of players we’ve got we can win by two goals. But you cannot be too gung-ho."