Paris Saint-Germain's famously trollish social media accounts describe this as "the new classic" and seeing as how Chelsea and PSG are meeting for the third straight year in the Champions League knockout stages, they're probably not wrong. That shared history and all that shared drama, not to mention the links with David Luiz and the constant transfer rumors going in both directions, all add up to a most crucial second leg Wednesday night at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea are behind, but have an away goal; PSG's 2-1 first leg victory positions them as slight favorites for the second leg. We are of course playing the underdog card, and the visitors are comfortably owning the favorites tag. It's all set up for something special once again.
"[The first leg result was] all right. We confirmed we are a good team but there are things we could have done better. We could have put Chelsea in more trouble. We have to go to London and play our football, if we do anything else we'll be in trouble."
"We need to keep possession, attack and go for an early goal. These are the games that we wait for all season. Being eliminated in the Champions League would be a bit of a disaster."
"...we will have to show more personality than in the first leg, because we're playing at Stamford Bridge, which is always different from playing at home. But we need to play the same kind of football, yes."
-Marco Verratti; source: Guardian
Marco Verratti has been a central figure in our showdowns with PSG, whether influencing events on the pitch (either negatively or positively), or standing on the sidelines and laughing at Mourinho (which did backfire spectacularly, I might add). But beyond that sideshow, Verratti has become an annoyingly good (and greatly annoying) player, even if he's just as likely to collect a silly yet already well overdue yellow card as he is creating something magnificent. He's a bit like Diego Costa in that regard, a player he calls "a good guy" who "uses warfare to win" games. But it's a couple other current and former Chelsea players who have served as an even greater inspiration for Verratti.
"If I was to pick a player that I identify with in this Chelsea team it would be Cesc Fàbregas. He makes you see what the game is about, he breathes football and you can tell by his way of playing how much he loves it. He was already a great player when I just got started, so I've watched him a lot. He's an example who I've tried to learn from."
"I was very young when I first got to Paris and Claude Makélélé [Ancelotti's assistant coach at the time] looked after me and gave me lots of advice. We used to go on the training pitch together and enact different game situations and discuss the options that were there for me as a midfielder. He is a great maestro for me."
-Marco Verratti; source: Guardian
Combining the best qualities of Cesc Fàbregas and Claude Makélélé into one player sounds like the perfect plan for midfield domination. Verratti may or may not be there just yet, though incoming (probably) Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte is just one of many who are big fans of the 23-year-old. He's counting on big things from the midfielder billed as the successor to Andrea Pirlo during this summer's European Championships.
"Marco is a player with important potential, he must continue with the same desire and passion. You can see that he lives for football with passion. He has already excelled technically, he's also developed physically and has great personality. But Italy can't wait, Italy needs Marco to be a leader right away."
-Antonio Conte; source: Canal Plus via Football Italia
PSG probably need his leadership slightly less, considering that they have plenty of other big personalities on the team as well. Still, the visitors will be sweating Verratti's fitness -- he's still battling a groin injury that threatened to keep him out of the first leg, too (but didn't) -- as well as the fitness of equally important midfielder Blaise Matuidi. Should either of the two miss out, Chelsea's prospects would suddenly look much better.