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Chelsea in fine form ahead of Champions League match at PSG

15 February 2016, 06:56

Paris — After months of poor results that prompted Chelsea to sack Jose Mourinho, the crisis seems to be over at Stamford Bridge. It's ended at the right time as the Champions League restarts this week, with the Blues traveling to face Paris Saint-Germain after their biggest league win this season, a 5-1 drubbing of Newcastle.

PSG and Chelsea, who meet as the first-leg matches of the Round of 16 get underway, have been drawn together in the knockout rounds for the third successive year. Their recent matches have been tense and close, with Chelsea prevailing in 2014, but losing last year on away goals.

PSG is great form, although the three-time defending French champion's run of 16 consecutive wins in all competitions was halted by Lille over the weekend in a goalless draw.

Also read: Man racially abused by Chelsea fans to attend PSG rematch

Despite the state of emergency in France following the November attacks that left 130 people dead in the capital, about 1,400 Chelsea fans are expected at the Parc des Princes. Their arrival will be one year after a commuter was racially abused and blocked by a group of supporters from the London club from boarding a metro train.

Benfica hosts Zenit Saint Petersburg In Tuesday's other match. Real Madrid travels to Roma on Wednesday for Zinedine Zidane's first Champions League match as a coach and Gent hosts Wolfsburg.

Here are some things to know ahead of this week's matches:



Roma forward Edin Dzeko ended an 81-day scoring drought with a goal in a 3-1 win at Carpi in Serie A on Friday.

Roma appeared to be heading for a draw before Dzeko slotted in Mohamed Salah's cross six minutes from time for his first goal since November.

It's been an emotional few days for Dzeko, who recently celebrated the birth of his daughter, Una.

"It's important to always believe," Dzeko wrote in Italian on Instagram.

Dzeko joined Roma in August on loan from Manchester City and has scored six goals in 26 appearances in all competitions.

Roma has won four straight under new coach Luciano Spalletti, who replaced the fired Rudi Garcia last month.

Against Madrid, the Giallorossi will be hoping to avoid another European embarrassment after getting routed 6-1 by Barcelona in November and falling 7-1 to Bayern Munich last season.



Winning the Champions League appears to be the only way Chelsea can return to Europe's elite competition next season, with the team in the bottom half of the Premier League in a dismal defense of its title.

Chelsea's form has improved, though, since the firing of Jose Mourinho, and the team is unbeaten in all competitions under interim coach Guus Hiddink.

"We mustn't get too carried away, it is one result. But at the same time, we have been waiting for this," England defender Gary Cahill said after the 5-1 win over Newcastle.

Cahill made his first league start this year as a replacement for center-back Kurt Zouma, the main injury absentee for the 2012 Champions League winners. Skipper John Terry is also unlikely to play after suffering a hamstring injury against Newcastle.

Despite Terry's setback, the mood at the Premier League club is buoyant.

"Now we have more confidence to go there and to play. Paris have a great team, great players, but we go there to try to win the game," Brazilian winger Willian said.



Zinedine Zidane will be making his Champions League debut as head coach when Real Madrid plays at Roma.

"It brings back a lot of memories," Zidane said after Madrid's 4-2 win over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Spanish league on Saturday. "I won it with this club as a player and as the assistant manager. It has something special. When you are a footballer, you dream of winning the World Cup every four years, and of winning the Champions League every year. We are going to fight to do it."

Real Madrid starts the round of 16 unbeaten and with one of the Champions League's best attacks — along with Bayern Munich — with 19 goals scored. The team's only setback in the group stage was a 0-0 draw at Paris Saint-Germain.

It is yet to lose a game under coach Zidane, who replaced Rafa Benitez last month.



Benfica will be looking to rebound from a disappointing home loss in a high-profile game against rival FC Porto, a result that cost the team the lead in the Portuguese league.

"Nobody likes to lose, it's normal to have a letdown," Benfica coach Rui Vitoria said. "But we have an important game right away on Tuesday and it should be enough to get us motivated again."

Benfica had won eight consecutive games before facing Porto on Friday. It hadn't lost since December.

The club is used to facing Zenit's Portuguese manager Andres Villas-Boas, who previously coached Porto and Academica de Coimbra. Villas-Boas faced Benfica seven times in his career, winning four games and losing three.

- AP


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