Global Sports : Mourinho Turns To Key Men

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Chelsea saw off Paris St Germain in last season’s Champions League and while those heroes have moved on there is every reason to be confident in this Jose Mourinho team, writes Adam Bate…
The visit of Paris St Germain to Stamford Bridge will bring back fond memories for Chelsea supporters even though the identity of the pivotal figures in that game mean it will be a very different affair from the one that saw the Blues claw back a two-goal deficit in last season’s quarter-final.
David Luiz was in Chelsea blue when the teams met in April and it was his touch that found Andre Schurrle for the opening goal of the night as Jose Mourinho’s men looked to make amends for their 3-1 first-leg defeat in Paris. PSG retained their lead until the final few moments but it was Demba Ba who was the hero, bundling the ball home from close range to cap a noisy night at the Bridge.
There was still time for Petr Cech to make a vital save from Marquinhos in stoppage time with PSG needing only one goal to spoil the home side’s evening. But Chelsea did it – forcing their way through with strength of character as much as skill.
Almost 12 months on and the most striking thing about that match is that so few of the Chelsea protagonists remain in the team. Ba is with Besiktas, Schurrle back in Germany with Wolfsburg and Cech will be on the bench on Wednesday night. As if to emphasise the feeling of transition, Luiz will line up for the opposition.
With the tie evenly poised after a 1-1 draw in Paris three weeks ago, the 2014-15 clash will require new heroes and given the changes at Chelsea, Mourinho will surely be confident that he has them in his squad…
Diego Costa
These were the nights for which Costa was bought. Not only did Chelsea’s star striker score eight goals for Atletico Madrid in last season’s Champions League, it’s telling that four of them came in the knockout stages of the competition – three against AC Milan and a pressure penalty at Stamford Bridge against his current club.
Costa also scored the only goal at the Bernabeu last season to inflict Real’s first home defeat in 34 games and Atletico’s first win against them in 14 years, so he knows what it takes to be the main man on the big occasion for his team. The Brazil-born forward should relish the theatre that comes with Wednesday’s contest and a tussle with one of the very best around in Thiago Silva.
The 26-year-old is already only two shy of the Premier League total managed by Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres combined last season and while he’s yet to get off the mark in the Champions League – that penalty at the Bridge in April remains his most recent goal in European competition – he’s well rested having played only four games in six weeks. It’s time to break his European duck for Chelsea.
Nemanja Matic
According to Opta, Matic has covered more ground than any other Chelsea player in the Premier League this season but he should be coming into this game well rested after serving the two-match suspension acquired when retaliating to an Ashley Barnes challenge two-and-a-half weeks ago. Instead he’s a minor doubt having picked up an injury in the Capital One Cup celebrations.
It will be a relief for his manager if he’s able to name Matic in the side because while Mourinho was happy to go with Kurt Zouma as his holding midfielder for that final against Tottenham, he’ll want his midfield specialist back for the battle against Paris St Germain. The statistics are indicative of the importance of the Serbian to his team.
Chelsea have lost only one of their last 38 games with Matic in the starting line-up. In comparison, they’ve lost three of the last 10 when he’s been absent. The 26-year-old was ineligible for Chelsea’s Champions League campaign last season and Mourinho will expect his presence to make a big difference in the biggest games one year on.
Cesc Fabregas
Fabregas’s tally of 15 assists is almost twice as many as any other Premier League player with the Spaniard providing the craft that was lacking at Chelsea last season. But with only one assist in his last eight games, supporters will be anxious to see their creative midfielder fit and firing for this one. Does he have the form and the physical condition to deliver a big performance?
Fabregas has played the full 90 minutes on 24 occasions this season but only three of those matches have come in the last two months and it will be intriguing to see whether he is glad of the rest or losing momentum at a key phase of the campaign.
He missed out on Champions League honours during his three-year stay at Barcelona despite joining a team that had won two of the previous three competitions in the period prior to his arrival. He will be determined to win this trophy and, at the age of 27, these could be the years that define his career.
And the rest…
Despite his second-leg save, Cech came in for criticism for his performance in the Parc des Princes last year so the presence of Thibaut Courtois in goal might be an added reason for confidence this time around. He’ll certainly be more welcome in the Chelsea goal than lining up for the opposition as he was when their European hopes crumbled against Atletico last season.
But it’s also worth acknowledging the significance of Eden Hazard’s influence on this tie. He was forced off through injury in the early stages of the game between these sides at Stamford Bridge last season and it feels like a huge Champions League performance from the man who is outdribbling everyone in the competition except Lionel Messi could be just around the corner.
Clearly there are lots of reasons for optimism ahead of Wednesday’s game. Now Chelsea – and the big-game players Mourinho bought for occasions just like this – need to go out and do it.

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