Three thoughts from 10 man PSG's shock elimination of Chelsea

PSG twice came from a goal behind with headed corners from center backs David Luiz and Thiago Silva to shock Chelsea despite having been reduced to 10 men after Zlatan Ibrahimovic was wrongly sent off in the 31st minute. It was no more than the visiting Parisians deserved- they were the better side throughout and can now look forward to a return to the quarterfinals for the second season running.

1. Excellent Verratti, Pastore, Thiago Motta embarrass Chelsea midfield

Following Ibrahimovic's dismissal PSG moved to something like a 4-3-2 formation when in possession. Mautuidi pushed up alongside Cavani on the left to make penetrating runs in behind the back four. Pastore, Verratti and Thiago Motta formed a midfield three. Those three players worked fantastically well, popping up in gaps between an inexplicably loose Chelsea midfield line that they played comfortably around. Matic, Oscar and Fabregas didn't offer anywhere near the same type of poise, vision and understanding of one another. That three man midfield partnership offered excellent balance for Chelsea at the beginning of the season but has since experienced a pronounced dip in form. Fabregas, charged with linking play from defensive areas forward, looks tired and has been unable to influence games since returning from injury and illness. Matic too seems less able to cover the expanse of ground between the defensive and midfield lines that he was early in the season. Having featured in 38 games this season fatigue may well be a factor in his dip in form. Mourinho has used fewer players in the league this season than any other Premier League team and it's shown in their performances since Christmas. They looked tired and out of sorts tonight, though having gone a week since their last outing fatigue shouldn't have been an issue tonight.

2. Cavani's work rate, versatility make him perfect striker when down to 10 men

Ibrahimovic is far and away the most talented player at PSG. However, if you have to play the majority of the game with ten men, he is maybe the one attacking player you could most live without. I say that because he plays such a specific role on the pitch and isn't especially active both off the ball and in the defensive phase of the game over the course of 90 minutes. Cavani, despite difficulties he's had at PSG, is a tireless worker. He dropped in behind the ball to defend Chelsea's deepest midfielder when PSG were defending. He sprinted into the channels when his side won the ball back to give them a quick countering option forward. He checked back to the ball to link up play during spells of PSG possession and provided a vertical option with runs in behind the Chelsea center backs. Playing with 10 men requires players to take on different responsibilities than they otherwise would with 11 and Cavani was willing to wear a number of different hats for his side. Folks will remember the chance he missed off the post but his work was vital in PSG pulling this out. He's a more versatile player than Ibrahimovic and was therefore more suited to leading the line with ten men.

3. Mourinho must shoulder a major part of blame

It was truly shocking to see Chelsea's front six gesticulating to one another, at a complete loss over who should be picking up which PSG player in what part of the pitch. They didn't have a clue. Perhaps they were confused by the change in positions PSG were forced to make after the red card but it shouldn't have been so difficult a man ahead. Pastore continued to find himself in space in gaps in the midfield. Mourinho has to shoulder at least part of the blame for the tactical set up after going a man ahead. They allowed Motta and Verratti far too much time on the ball and were too lethargic when in possession themselves. Had they gotten higher up the pitch, attacked with pace and purpose and then pressed quickly to win the ball back when they lost it they could have kept PSG in their own half for the bulk of the game. Instead they were slow and retreated into deep positions in defense. They never made PSG feel like they were playing with ten men. Perhaps the lethargy in attack and the unwillingness to press in midfield was down to fatigue, a factor that as discussed earlier also falls on Mourinho for his lack of squad rotation.


PSG were far more deserving of going through. Their performance with ten men was one of the best in Europe in recent memory. Unlike Chelsea's 2-2 draw at Barcelona that saw them through to the 2012 UCL final, this wasn't a backs to the wall job- PSG were the much better side throughout the second half and took the game to Chelsea. For Chelsea, this result had been coming for some time. They simply haven't looked anywhere near the free-flowing, balanced side we saw dominating sides early in the Premier League season. They may well hold on to claim the Premier League title but that is more a reflection of the lack of quality in the Premier League at this time; Chelsea are not an especially good side.