Chelsea, PSG set to make US history
Chelsea and Paris St-Germain, two of the biggest-spending teams in professional sports, will face off on Sunday night (FOX Soccer, 7:00 PM EST) in the ideal setting of the new Yankee Stadium, a billion-dollar homage to deep-pocketed success.
Call it the "Splash the Cash Cup."
There is no actual trophy on the line, but plenty of story lines between two teams who will now be seen as natural rivals because of their inclusion in the exclusive club of mega-spending European elite (a club that really only includes Manchester City).
Perhaps it is fitting that the first European club Chelsea faces after finally lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy is the latest team to spare no expense to try and do the same. PSG has made global headlines for landing former AC Milan stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, as well as Napoli sensation Ezequiel Lavezzi. Combining the transfer fees and salaries, PSG will wind up paying north of $100 million for the three accomplished players.
Adding three stars to a PSG team that already had a good amount of talent has catapulted the Parisian club from Ligue 1 title contender to Champions League hopefuls in one expensive summer.
The man in charge of molding that high-priced talent into a champion is a man Chelsea fans know too well: Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti spent two seasons in charge of the Blues, helping lead the team to its last Barclays Premier League title, in 2010. A second-place finish a year later, coupled with a Champions League loss to Manchester United was enough for Roman Abramovich to send Ancelotti packing. It felt like a harsh firing at the time, but Chelsea won the Champions League a year later — albeit with an interim manager in Roberto Di Matteo after Ancelotti’s replacement, Andres Villas-Boas, struggled mightily at Stamford Bridge.
Ancelotti isn’t likely to be looking for revenge against Chelsea, certainly not in a friendly, but Sunday will offer a brief glimpse into how the sides match up. Both teams will be missing key players, with Thiago Silva (Olympics) and Ibrahimovic (recovering from the Euros) absent for PSG and Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge (Olympics) missing for Chelsea. John Terry is joining Chelsea for Sunday’s match, though it is unclear whether he will be able to play, or whether he will be saved for Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game.
There will still be plenty of quality on display on Sunday, and some juicy matchups to consider. Chelsea will show off newly-signed Belgian star Eden Hazard, who impressed in his club debut during Chelsea’s 4-2 victory against the Seattle Sounders last Saturday. That victory was a breakout performance for fellow Belgian sensation Romelu Lukaku. The 19-year-old striker is expected to take on a key role with the Blues this season after the departure of star forward Didier Drogba to China.
For PSG, the match will serve as a good opportunity for some players to stake their claims to playing time on what has suddenly become one of the deeper teams in Europe. Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore remains the focal point of the PSG attack, and should feature alongside countryman Lavezzi, while players such as young Italian sensation Marco Verratti and French midfielders Mathieu Bodmer and Jeremy Menez will look to show off their talents against a tough Chelsea defense.
PSG’s defense offers up some interesting subplots, with the impending arrival of Thiago Silva likely meaning the end of playing time for the likes of Diego Lugano and former PSG captain Mamadou Sahko. The surplus of defending options could lead to a transfer, and Sunday’s match, going up against forwards like Fernando Torres and Lukaku, could help facilitate a move for one of the surplus PSG defenders.
For Chelsea, Sunday’s match is the second in their four-match tour of the United States. The tour opener against Seattle was a success both on the field and at the turnstiles, and the allure of seeing the reigning European club champions should mean another packed stadium.
The stars of PSG and Chelsea won’t be the only ones on display on Sunday. The match marks the first soccer game to be played at the new Yankee Stadium. The Yankees plan on making the $1.5 billion facility a welcome home for the sport much the same way the old Yankee Stadium used to be. The PSG-Chelsea friendly is the first of two scheduled at Yankee Stadium this summer, with Real Madrid and AC Milan facing off there next month.
Sunday’s match will offer us a glimpse of what soccer will be like at the new venue, and it will give soccer fans in New York City a chance to take in a match featuring two of the best soccer teams money can buy.