With Matic, Chelsea won’t hesitate to be conservative
He still has one match to sit out domestically, but Nemanja Matic is free from any suspension to play for Chelsea tonight in the Champions League. The Serb is almost certain to start at Stamford Bridge and will play a big role in the evening’s proceedings. Although Chelsea will surely go out to win the game, a goalless draw would be enough to take them through on away goals and Jose Mourinho will have no hesitation in having his side sit tight to hold on to the slender advantage should Paris Saint Germain cause a few early scares. If it comes to that, Matic will be in his element sweeping up any mess that comes his way and supplying the Chelsea attack on the counter.
Shakhtar approach to exhaust them
Shakhtar Donetsk did well to hold Bayern Munich to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of this tie, especially given the circumstances of their ‘home’ fixture. Tonight is an altogether tougher test, as the hosts haven’t lost at the Allianz Arena all season and will be more inclined to go for the gullet on their own patch. An away goal would be huge for the Ukrainian club but Bayern will be rubbing their hands should they attempt to match the hosts’ expansive play in Munich this evening. The problem Shakhtar manager Mircea Lucescu faces is how to avoid the almost inevitable fatigue that would come from the alternative of sitting back and letting Pep Guardiola’s Bayern side pass it around. Shakhtar will be looking to hit the Germans on the counter attack, but by the time they get the ball in such situations the attackers may be too puffed out to effectively carry out their role.
Costa to rile up PSG defenders
Paris Saint Germain manager Laurent Blanc has this week warned his side not to rise to the provocations of Chelsea striker Diego Costa tonight, but it’s easier said than done. As great a forward player he is without it, the Spain international sets himself apart with his aggression and effective goading of opposition defenders while mostly avoiding punishment himself. Leading the line tonight, Costa will almost certainly be at his b*stard best and doing his bit while the Chelsea back line will be holding tight. As time progresses and PSG grow more frustrated, Costa will be in faces and clipping ankles in order to get a violent reaction. Don’t be surprised to see a red card at some point.
Bayern absences won’t be enough of a difference
Numerous absences from the squad ahead of a big match is usually a concern for a manager (although Schalke showed last night that it can be overcome) but Bayern Munich are a side that won’t too affected by such an issue. Tonight they will be without four midfielders in captain Philipp Lahm, Xabi Alonso, Javi Martinez and Thiago Alcantara, and yet such is the depth of quality in this Bayern side that it isn’t as huge a problem as it would be for most. Bastian Schweinsteiger will be able to step in, while David Alaba has proved more than capable in a holding role when not wide left. Factor in the wealth of competition in the attacking areas and Guardiola will still be confident in his side having what it takes to progress.
Frenchman to impress most won’t be in away side
While their riches have allowed the club to bring in players from around the world, PSG has retained a French core in the squad and you’d expect some of the best domestic young players to be ripe for picking up. Youth products Adrien Rabiot and Jean-Christophe Bahebeck played for the club on the weekend and could well feature in some capacity tonight, but it is the other team who will field the best young French talent this evening. Kurt Zouma will likely start at centre back for Chelsea having began to establish himself in the team this season, and the 20 year-old already looks good enough for this level. He will enjoy his battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic this evening, and if he passes with flying colours then PSG will be kicking themselves that they didn’t make a move on him while at St Etienne before The Blues stepped in.