Welcome back to the Champions League. Do not adjust your sets, this is not a rerun of last year, or the year before. This is brand new, yet all so very familiar. A glitch in the Matrix, if you will. Deja vu, all over again and again and again.
All this familiarity with each other is sure to breed a bit of contempt or animosity, especially considering some of the personal histories involved. It's the time of the year when even the David Luiz unconditional love gets put aside.
Over the last 180 (2014) + 210 (2015) + 90 (preseason) minutes, literally nothing has been able to separate the two sides other than away goals and a penalty kick shootout. Two years ago, Chelsea famously battled back from a two-goal first-leg deficit, Demba Ba's last minute goal sending the fans, the players, and the manager into raptures. While Chelsea couldn't quite build on that emotional quarterfinal, losing to eventual Chelsea heroes Thibaut Courtois and Diego Costa in the semifinals, the 2-0 comeback against PSG will live long in the annals of famous European nights at Stamford Bridge.
Last year's second leg will also live long in our memories, though for all the wrong reasons. A 1-1 away draw put Chelsea firmly into the driver's seat, but we somehow contrived to get eliminated by 10-men PSG's set piece prowess anyway. The Parisians getting firmly outclassed in the next round by eventual champions Barcelona was scant consolation.
A bit more merriment was to be had in our pre-season tour of the USA, our 1-1 draw and subsequent penalty shootout against the Champions of France proving a rare highlight of our early season implosion. Thibaut Courtois's absolute howitzer of a (winning) spot kick would've sent the ball into Low Earth Orbit had it not been for the incredible tensile strength of whatever material the nets were made out of at Charlotte, NC's Bank of America Stadium.
So, after 480 minutes, the score stands at 7-7. One meaningful "win" each. The rubber match start now. We're not favored.
Date / Time: Tuesday, February 16, 2015, 19:45 GMT; 2:45pm EST; 1:15am IST (next day)
Venue: Parc des Princes, Paris, France
Referee: Carlos Velasco Carballo — the 44-year-old Spaniard will take charge of the sixth Chelsea match of his career. If you're looking for bad omens, we've failed to win either of the two Round of 16 away legs he's officiated, losing 3-1 in Napoli in 2012 and drawing 1-1 against Galatasaray in 2014. If you're looking for good omens, we overturned both of those results in the respective second legs, and we've won all three of his other games in charge, all three coming in the group stages over the past few years. Judging by his recent games officiated in La Liga, he's certainly not card-averse.
Forecast: Cold, very cold, almost freezing.
On TV: BT Sport Europe (UK); Fox Sports 1, ESPN Deportes (USA); Ten Action / HD (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: BT Sport Live (UK); Fox Soccer 2Go; Fox Sports Go; WatchESPN; Ten Sports Live (India)
PSG team news: The story dominating the PSG headlines was Serge Aurier's absolutely flabbergasting performance on social media over the weekend, which has gotten him suspended indefinitely from the team. Also missing, at least from the starting lineup, will be Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore, though both are expected to be on the bench and available for late, game-changing appearances.
Thanks to the cupcake league in which they play, Paris Saint-Germain have not lost a single game all season, which follows on from the domestic quadruple they achieved last season (league, both cups, and the community shield equivalent). A clean sweep that they might just achieve it again, despite the ridiculous fixture congestion that it's been causing them as well.
Since losing (sort-of) to Chelsea in the pre-season contest, PSG have been defeated just once in all competitions, in late November, away to Real Madrid. They have yet to concede a goal at home in the Champions League and have a fourth successive Ligue 1 title all but wrapped up with a dozen games still to go.
Whether that gives them motivation, confidence, or complacency remains to be seen. For more on the most impressive edition of PSG yet, be sure to read Rob's opposition analysis.
Chelsea team news: Sputtering right along, Chelsea have stretched our unbeaten streak to a dozen games, divided equally between six, mostly impressive wins and six, mostly disappointing draws. We would most certainly take an impressive draw in this one.
Alongside permanently injured Radamel Falcao, Hiddink will be without either of our two first-choice center backs, with John Terry staying behind in London to nurse a hamstring strain and Kurt Zouma just starting on the long and arduous road back from ACL surgery. Nemanja Matic, meanwhile, is suspended thanks to three yellow cards in five group stage matches. Everyone else is fit and ready to go, it would seem, including two extra defenders in the traveling squad, teenagers Matt Miazga and Jake Clarke-Salter.
Since our 3-1 defeat in Paris in 2014, Chelsea have lost away in Europe just once, earlier this season against FC Porto. Despite the bad vibes from last year, we don't actually have to win this one. A score-draw or even a scoreless one would be a good result.
Previously: Good night.