Chelsea crashed out of this seasons Champions League losing 4-2 on aggregate to Paris Saint Germain in the round of 16, for a second consecutive year. Their fate was sealed by a 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge last night.
Chelsea needed to start strong. After getting the away goal in Paris they needed to capitalise on it with a quick tempo, giving the French Champions no time to settle in to the game. An early goal would have worked wonders and put the Blues on the front foot from the off.
But a slow start ensued, with interim boss Guus Hiddink described it as ‘showing to much respect’ to the Parisians. The Londoners were 1-0 down within twenty minutes, thanks to a goal from 20 year-old Rabiot after poor defending from Gary Cahill. Meaning Mikel’s away goal three weeks ago now counts for nothing. This soon drew a positive reaction, Chelsea seemed to up their tempo, pressing Paris high up the pitch and causing them to make mistakes on the ball, and allowing the likes of Willian, Pedro and Costa to have a run in on goal. This is what caused Costa’s brilliant goal, after a tackle from Pedro in the PSG half the ball broke for Willian who played in Costa.
The match was on a knife edge and Chelsea really looked on top, playing at a fast paced tempo and carrying on their high pressing game for the early parts of the second half. But Paris’ midfield trio of Rabiot, Matuidi and Thiago Motta began to take over. As I mentioned in my pre match article, the Blues needed to win the midfield battle. But with only Mikel holding and Fabregas pushing forward looking for a winner they began to get overrun. PSG developed into the game in the closing stages. And after brilliant build up play and a great cross from Di Maria, Ibrahimovic settled the tie.
The midfield battle was key, but with just Mikel up against the three men of PSG the Blues were never going to come out on top within the ninety minutes. I personally, was worried from the start with the Blues only natural holding player being Mikel, while Matic was left on the bench. Matic starting could’ve made all the difference. But in hindsight that’s very easy to say.
Diego Costa’s injury was another huge moment in the tie. It seemed to sap all of Chelsea’s energy. He was the driving force for the team. He was unstoppable on the night. His goal was fantastic, but when he went off and young Bertrand Traore replaced him, the Blues seemed to think that was their final chance gone. And just ten minutes later the tie was over.
This highlights just how important Costa is to the next manager to be brought in. The fear will be when he’s not fit. Last season Remy came in and scored some vital goals, but has barely had a kick of the ball under Hiddink. Traore looks promising but on a stage like yesterday Chelsea needed someone who was ready for the big time.
Now, with only the FA Cup to play for, and the possibility of a Europa League spot, Chelsea must pick themselves up and play for what is left in the season and show the new manager, whoever that may be, what he has at his disposal.