PARIS.— Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain meet at Stamford Bridge tomorrow night with both sides’ seasons riding on the outcome of their Champions League soccer last 16, second leg showdown.
PSG head to London with a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Paris last month thanks to a late Edinson Cavani winner, but the tie is finely poised, with John Obi Mikel’s away goal giving Chelsea plenty of reason to believe they can progress.
Away goals have decided the meetings of the sides in each of the last two seasons, with a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge taking PSG through at the same stage last season after Chelsea had come out on top in the 2014 quarter-finals.
The stakes are extremely high for this latest clash of the clubs, with Chelsea looking to Europe for joy while they continue to struggle in the English Premier League.
They have lost just once in 16 games since the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December, but that loss came at the Parc des Princes three weeks ago and Chelsea are coming off a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City that surely ended their hopes of a top-four finish in the English Premier League.
Meanwhile, PSG had their minds elsewhere during a 0-0 home draw with Montpellier at the weekend.
They are 23 points clear of Monaco at the top of Ligue 1 and could secure another French title as early as next weekend, so they risk having a rather anti-climactic finish to the season if they are eliminated from Europe.
That means there is huge pressure on Laurent Blanc’s team, as Brazilian defender Maxwell admitted.
“Chelsea is on the minds of everyone. It is a very important match. Everyone is waiting for it — the media, the club, the players too,” he told French media after Saturday’s match.
PSG have doubts over the fitness of influential midfield duo Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti but hope at least one of the two will make the game.
“At this time of the season it is difficult to have everyone fully fit. We all have little knocks here and there. We hope to have a full squad,” added Maxwell.
Meanwhile, Chelsea could be without skipper John Terry but Hiddink insisted that Diego Costa should be fine despite sitting out the Stoke draw.
Real Madrid’s campaign is also now riding on success in Europe after they slipped 12 points behind leaders Barcelona in La Liga, although Zinedine Zidane’s team are well placed to progress to the quarter-finals as they host Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu tonight.
The Spanish giants won 2-0 in the first leg in Italy and so appear poised to end a run of eight consecutive defeats to Serie A opposition in two-legged European ties.
They also come into the game fresh from demolishing Celta Vigo 7-1 in La Liga at the weekend and hope to welcome Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale back into their starting line-up.
“He was happy to play again after such a long time. I think he will be ready to start. We will see over the next couple of days,” said Zidane of Bale, who came off the bench to score against Celta after six weeks out.
Roma travel without Daniele De Rossi and German defender Antonio Ruediger, who are injured, but Madrid must be wary of a team who have won seven straight Serie A games.
In Germany, Wolfsburg will hope to make sure of a place in the quarter-finals for the first time when they entertain Gent tonight defending a 3-2 first-leg lead.
“We can make history and reach the quarter-finals for the first time,” Wolfsburg’s Julian Draxler told Bundesliga.com. “We’ll approach the game as we would any other: we want to win it.”
The other game this midweek sees Zenit St Petersburg entertain Benfica in Russia tomorrow, with the Portuguese side holding a 1-0 lead from the first leg.
Benfica are fresh from beating Lisbon rivals Sporting 1-0 away at the weekend and beat the Russians at this stage in 2012, but Zenit’s Portuguese coach Andre Villas-Boas hopes his team can turn the tie around.
“We are confident that we can score the necessary goals. The quarter-finals of the Champions League is our dream. It will be a major event for Russian football,” Villas-Boas said.
Fixtures (all 9:45pm)
Today: Real Madrid v Roma; Wolfsburg v Gent
Tomorrow: Chelsea v PSG; Zenit v Benfica — AFP