LONDON (AP) — With a title already secured and their Premier League title prospects enhanced, Chelsea’s players have enjoyed a strong start to March.
“There is a great buzz around the place,” Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. “The (League) Cup final was huge in terms of the atmosphere around the club and the dressing room.”
And an earlier embarrassing exit from the FA Cup had the benefit of providing Chelsea with a week of rest going into Wednesday’s Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain.
Although Chelsea drew 1-1 in the first leg at PSG, the London club left the French capital better placed to advance than in the previous year’s quarterfinals. The Blues overcame a 3-1 deficit then to advance on away goals by winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
While Chelsea currently holds a five-point lead in the Premier League — with a game in hand — PSG trails Lyon by a point in the French league.
Here are some are some things to know going into the second leg:
PSG coach Laurent Blanc is worried that his team’s poor finishing in recent weeks could prove costly at Stamford Bridge.
Although PSG easily beat Lens 4-1 on Saturday, his players missed a glut of chances — with wingers Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi both extremely wasteful in that game and in the previous week’s 0-0 draw with Monaco.
“We’ll need to be more clinical against Chelsea, I don’t need to spell out why,” Blanc said. “We’ll have fewer chances over there.”
PSG traditionally relies heavily on Zlatan Ibrahimovic for its goals, but his form has not been great since he came back from a nagging heel injury. Although the Sweden forward’s 16 goals in 26 games this season is a credible haul, it is a significantly lower ratio than he managed in the two previous campaigns and includes five penalties.
Edinson Cavani has 18 goals this season, and his form is improving, but if those two are off form then PSG will need goals from the midfield. However, Thiago Motta has not scored so far this season, Blaise Matuidi has managed one goal — against Lens on Saturday — and Marco Verratti just two.
But David Luiz has found his range since stepping up from central defense to midfield, and the former Chelsea player has found the net in his past two matches.
COSTA’S GOAL SEARCH
The most significant addition to the Chelsea squad since hosting PSG a year ago was Diego Costa.
The Spain striker has netted 16 Premier League goals this season, but his finishing has evaded him in the last six games in all competitions. And the former Atletico Madrid player is still searching for his first European goal in a Chelsea shirt.
The behavior of fans will be in the spotlight around London on Wednesday after racism by Chelsea fans in Paris last month. A black commuter was filmed being forced off a train by supporters who then chanted: “We’re racist and that’s the way we like it.”
Matches between PSG and Chelsea have also led to violent clashes between hooligan elements of both clubs in the past.
PSG published a message from British police addressed to its traveling fans on its website Monday, advising fans not to “frequent pubs near to the stadium, before and after the game.”
AP Sports Writer Jerome Pugmire in Paris contributed to this report.
This article was written by Rob Harris from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.