In this year’s Champions League knockout draw Chelsea and Real Madrid have been drawn against opponents they defeated last season. Does this provide the two teams – both leading their respective domestic leagues – with a readymade blueprint for beating PSG and Schalke? Let’s look closer.
A big difference between last year’s 3-1 quarter-final 1st leg win for PSG at the Parc des Princes and 2015′s encounter will be a change in personnel; Lucas Moura, Yohan Cabaye and Blaise Matuidi are all out with injury, while Javier Pastore and Maxwell are doubts.
The industrious Matiudi intercepted or stole the ball from Chelsea 6 times in that game, a number bettered only by Thiago Silva, while Maxwell was also a key component of that side – as proven by his record of 0% ‘bad actions’ from 6 ‘medium-high risk’ defensive situations.
PSG will rely heavily on a three-pronged attack spearheaded by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, supported by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani. Lavezzi appeared to be the most dangerous to the Chelsea backline, scoring the second goal with an unstoppable half-volley, but also creating a team-best 4 scoring chances for his team-mates over the course of the match. Lavezzi also had the most attempts on goal of any PSG player – 4 – with 2 of those shots finding the target.
From our player radar in that game, which records the average position of each player on the pitch, it is clear Lavezzi played in a more advanced role, with Zlatan dropping deeper. Chelsea may want to employ rangy defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic to mark the Swedish catalyst should he also operate in the hole this time around.
Marco Veratti was Ibrahimovic’s main supply line in last season’s match, supplying him with 15 passes. It will be crucial that Chelsea’s midfield breaks this potentially harmful link-up.
Chelsea might find it hard to develop the kind of strangehold on possession that they have enjoyed in the Premier League this season against PSG. The French champions, currently lying in 3rd place in the Ligue One table, recorded 63% ‘live ball possession’ in periods when the match was tied, giving Jose Mourinho’s team an uphill task when it comes to dominating the game.
Real Madrid have much fonder memories of their trip to the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen last February, the same journey they will be making on Wednesday evening. Carlo Ancelotti will hope his men can display the same ruthlessness that killed off last season’s tie with a massive 6-1 win.
Aside from the sterling individual performances from Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, who all scored a brace, it was an unrelenting attacking onslaught which produced 20 shots on goal.
Despite all three players scoring the same number of goals, 2015 Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo shone the brightest, producing an impressive 13 attempts to create scoring chances, with a team-best 49% ratio of ‘good’ attacking actions.
However with the addition of World Cup winner Tony Kroos, and Bale, Ronaldo and Benzema all fit, it would seem Real have their prime attacking weapons in place to inflict another home defeat on Schalke. Whether they can match last season’s rout remains to be seen.