Champions League Team Focus: Paris Saint-Germain
Paris Saint-Germain face Chelsea in the Champions League knock-out rounds for the third year in a row, with the clubs now fully aware of what to expect from their opposition.
Laurent Blanc’s side have reached the quarter-finals stage in each of the last three seasons but will have to beat the 2012 champions if they are to progress.
Blanc’s PSG have virtually wrapped up their defence of the Ligue 1 title with half of the season still to play as they have built up a massive lead over their nearest rivals.
Their league season has therefore been in stark contrast to Chelsea’s, who parted company with manager Jose Mourinho after a terrible start to their Premier League title defence. Guus Hiddink is now in charge of the London club on an interim basis.
With league glory virtually assured, Blanc will be fully focused on Champions League success and after collecting useful experience of the knock-out round in recent years they will be confident of taking the next step and reaching the last four. But first they have to beat Chelsea.
PSG like to keep the ball and their midfield is based around retaining possession, with Italian midfielder Marco Verratti among the best in the business at passing.
However, with a threat like Zlatan Ibrahimović up front, Blanc has a weapon who is just as potent in the air as he is on the ground. Edinson Cavani is a goalscoring threat cutting in off the wing.
PSG lack backup for the Swedish striker and if he is not on his game they can struggle to break teams down. Ibrahimović has struggled to shine in games against English opposition in the past and as he comes towards the end of his career he will be seeking to hit back against his critics.
Width tends to be provided by the full-backs, who are encouraged by Blanc to get forward as much as possible and join the attack. But PSG may be more circumspect in European competition, especially against a Chelsea side likely to soak up pressure for the first leg, which takes place in the French capital.
PSG usually play in a loose 4-3-3 formation, similar to the Barcelona side many elite European clubs have tried to copy in recent years, but their system is fluid and Blanc is not afraid to change things mid-match if they are not working for his team.
Key fantasy players
All eyes will be on Brazilian defender David Luiz as he goes up against his old club. Luiz, who played in Chelsea’s 2012 penalty shoot-out win against Bayern Munich, is a talented player who is capable of brilliance, but is also prone to making costly errors for his team. Luiz, who is valued at just $3,500 on DraftKings for the home tie against his former club, has been known to score spectacular free-kicks, which is worth keeping in mind for daily fantasy football players.
Luiz is still rebuilding his confidence after the 2014 World Cup, in which he had starred before an appalling performance in the 7-1 semi-final thrashing at the hands of eventual winners Germany. Luiz is one of four Brazilians in the PSG squad, while compatriots Oscar and Ramires may play for Chelsea in the tie.
Zlatan Ibrahimović was not at his best in the group stages, scoring just two goals in six games, but he provides much-needed stardust to this PSG team. Ibrahimović is the top scorer in Ligue 1 this season and will want to carry his domestic form on to the European stage.
At 34, Ibrahimović’s time as an elite player is coming to an end but he is still sure to be on the shortlist of many daily fantasy football players for this year’s Champions League knock-out stages.
His time at Manchester United will be remembered as a strange failure, but Angel di Maria has settled in well to life at PSG. The Argentine has added creativity and game-changing ability on the ball to Blanc’s team, top scoring with three strikes in the group stage for PSG.
Di Maria could either play as part of Blanc’s midfield three or be selected further forward as support for Ibrahimović, but wherever he plays he is likely to be good value for fantasy players.
Blaise Matuidi is the rock at the heart of the PSG side and the heartbeat of Blanc’s team. The Frenchman is a metronomic presence on the ball but also excels at winning possession back for his side.
Matuidi does a lot of the dirty work for the French club but he can make the difference during his rare forays forward too. Matuidi recorded two assists in the group stage for an impressive WhoScored rating of 7.43.
David Luiz – $3,500 on DraftKings UK (vs Chelsea, $50k Budget) in their Champions League Freeroll Contest