PSG are a good football club. They have great players. They're chic. But I'll stick my neck out and predict that they are unlikely to win the Champions League. In this season at least.
The Chelsea-PSG R16 second-leg game was proof enough that a Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich would run circles around the Parisian club. Chelsea were wasteful. They looked exasperated without the ball and flustered with it. They had so much time and space in front of the PSG goal for so long. But their bag of tricks has been empty all season.
But all opponents are unlikely to be as large-hearted. The fact that PSG gave Chelsea that much room is precisely why they'll stumble further down the competition. If Chelsea, in their current misery can stretch PSG, superior teams like Barca, Real and Bayern will have a party on the field.
Forwardline isn't PSG's problem though. The two goals they scored were quite ordinary compared to what was Chelsea's best goal of the season. But both strikes spoke volumes about PSG's efficiency and the joke that the Chelsea defence was last night, just like it has been all season. Chelsea fullbacks — Kenedy on the left and Cesar Azpilicueta on the right — have a lot to answer for. Kenedy was swimming in no man's sea when Zlatan Ibrahimovic received the ball on the right. He had so much time and space that he could've stopped and picked his nose before he squared in that ball for Adrien Rabiot. Easy as a pie.
And then Chelsea equalised in stunning fashion through Diego Costa. A brilliant interception and an equally brilliant back-heel from Pedro helped set it up. Costa turned to switch foot, left Thiago Silva numb and scored with his left. Costa gets a lot of stick from everyone and holds the title for the most hated man in Premier League football. Hate him all you want, he'll still score against you. He has kept Chelsea floating in 2016.
Having equalised, one would have expected the Blues to do clamp down, buckle up and get one on the counter. This is what the Chelsea of the yore would've done. No, scrap that. Chelsea of the yore actually would've scored a solitary goal and shut shop on PSG. Job done. But this is not the Chelsea we know. They aren't smart and aren't that capable. It's not that same Chelsea that dispatched Barcelona in similar fashion. This team repeats mistakes and is a bundle of jingling-jangling nerves.
Chelsea used to carry the occasion in pocket, no matter how heavy it was. Big game, big whoop. Now, the occasion gets better of them, crushes them. It was almost a replication of PSG's first goal when Angel Di Maria ran down the left. Azpilicueta was nowhere to be seen when he put that ball in for Ibrahimovic. So much space, you'd think Chelsea's right flank was an empty ball-room. And they let PSG dance, tap-in number two. Goodbye Champions League.
Kenedy isn't even a real fullback, he's a forward. And Azpilicueta, though a natural right-back, has been excellent on the left for seasons now. With John Terry and Kurt Zouma injured, the defence was always going to be a logistical nightmare.
Now is the time when Chelsea will regret selling back Filipe Luis (left-back) to Atletico and loaning Andreas Christensen (right-back) to Borussia Mönchengladbach. Terry and Zouma's absence injects haplessness in the centre-halves. Terry has an intelligence unmatched in that position. He's slow and he's old but he keeps ship steady when there's high tide. Zouma's physicality and speed makes for perfect-pairing with Terry. But an out of sorts Branislav Ivanovic paired with Gary Cahill is bound to create problems.
Chelsea are out of two Champions League campaigns with one loss. And it'll be hard holding on to big names and getting in more of them without the promise of the elite competition. But that discussion is for later.
Back to PSG and to why they probably won't be huffing and puffing for long in Champions League. They play in a league where they enjoy a 23-point lead at the top. They have brilliant forwards in Ibrahimovic, Di Maria, Lucas Moura and Edinson Cavani. They have, arguably, an even better midfield in Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi, Thiago Motta, Rabiot, Javier Pastore.
But let's look at their defence — the heart of any good team. Thiago Silva is considered to be one of world's best centre-backs. But he barely needs to be awake against teams in Ligue 1 compared to games against big European clubs. It's jarring. You need to be at the highest level every single week to be even considered in that plateau of players who are stretched to their best every game.
David Luiz is an overpaid amateur. He was meant to be many things but not a defender. Marquinhos has more attacking instincts than defensive ones, and then there is Maxwell.
PSG went for a lot of glamour when they got that big money from Qatar. But if only they sought function over fashion, it would have done them a lot of good. They are still in hunt for the 'Big Cup'.
They don't have the necessary tools required to slay that beast. They need that cunning wit that Chelsea once boasted of in Europe. Misplaced transfer tactics have left both clubs hurting.
Lollipop-popping Laurent Blanc left Chelsea in his wake for a second time running in the Champions League. But lollipops don't last for long.
First Published On : Mar 10, 2016 17:01 IST