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5 talking points ahead of this week's Champions League action

We assess Chelsea versus PSG and other big games set to take place this week.

PSG will need to keep a close eye on John Terry and other Chelsea goal threats.
PSG will need to keep a close eye on John Terry and other Chelsea goal threats.
Image: Adam Davy

1. Can PSG live up to extreme expectations?

DESPITE STILL BEING on course for a domestic treble, Laurent Blanc’s future as PSG boss is far from certain.

The French club travel to Chelsea on Wednesday in the second leg of the Champions League last 16, with some critics suggesting elimination from the competition — irrespective of other results — will cost Blanc his job.

It would be extremely harsh on a coach who has coped relatively well with the pressure that comes with managing France’s top club, but it gives an insight into the level of PSG’s ambition.

When the owners began their project, they aimed to ultimately be on the same level as Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, yet while they have thrived domestically — much like Man City, another club who only recently enough acquired unprecedented levels of riches — they have disappointed in the Champions League so far under the circumstances, failing to get further than the quarter-finals in the last few years.

2. Countless goal threats make Chelsea special

Ahead of this tie, David Luiz has suggested Jose Mourinho is not special, but the same perhaps cannot be said of his team. Chelsea have already won the League Cup and are widely expected to claim the league title, especially after rivals Man City’s recent loss to Liverpool.

And more importantly, the Blues regularly look like a team of winners, with an ability to grind out a result even while not playing well — as was the case for their Capital One Cup triumph against Tottenham, while a similar outcome on Wednesday would hardly be surprise.

In addition, even if they suffer a surprise loss, the Londoners are still expected to secure a league and cup double — a feat that even some great teams of the past (Arsenal’s 03-04 Invincibles, for instance) have failed to match.

And while Chelsea’s incredible defensive record has been much discussed (they have conceded just five goals at home in the league all season), they also look capable of doing significant damage down the other end too.

Moreover, not only have the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard regularly weaved their magic during the campaign, their defenders can also often be dangerous in attack, as proved to be the case in the first leg of this tie. Captain John Terry is even the second-highest goalscoring defender in Premier League history, while Branislav Ivanovic has also been especially prolific of late.

Hence, like Man United at their peak at times under Fergie, one of the greatest strengths of this Chelsea side is that it seems as if a goal can come from almost any player on the field.

3. Will Real Madrid be affected by worrying domestic form?

Soccer - Liga BBVA - Real Madrid v Athletico Bilbao - Santiago Bernabeu Stadium Source: Gregorio Lopez

(Luka Modric is expected to return imminently for Real Madrid)

In the Champions League at least, Real Madrid have looked very convincing this season.

A 2-0 first-leg away win against Schalke means progress to the Champions League quarter-final looks to be virtually assured, while should they beat the Germans tonight, it will be their 11th victory on the trot in Europe.

However, in the league of late, they have looked considerably less impressive, as they have dropped points against both Villareal and Athletic Bilbao, allowing Barcelona to overtake them at the top in the process.

One reason for Real’s sudden dip in form has been the absence of influential midfielder Luka Modric through injury. However, the Croatia international could return against Schalke, which would be a big boost for Carlo Ancelotti’s side as the season approaches its climax.

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4. Can improving Bayern put Shakhtar to the sword

Despite being heavy favourites, Bayern are by no means assured of a place in the Champions League quarter-finals as they prepare to face Shakhtar on Wednesday.

The Germans host the Ukrainians, with a dangerous (from their perspective) 0-0 aggregate score from the first leg.

Shakhtar were very impressive in limiting their opponents to half chances during the initial encounter, with frustration getting the better in particular of Xabi Alonso — the influential midfielder’s red card in Ukraine means he misses this game.

However, Bayern have looked impressive of late, with several players returning to form. For instance, Germany World Cup hero, Thomas Müller, has struggled of late, but looked to be somewhere near his best at the weekend, as he notched a brace in Bayern Munich’s 3-1 win over Hannover.

5. Will Martinez absence prove pivotal as Porto host Basel?

Porto’s clash at home to Basel is still very much in the balance, with the sides having drawn 1-1 in the first leg in Switzerland.

While the Portuguese side may be favourites to progress, their opponents have been handed a boost owing to the expected absence of Jackson Martinez — Porto’s captain and leading goalscorer.

Colombia international Martinez has arguably been Porto’s best player this season, with 17 goals in the league and six strikes in eight Champions League appearances.

Nevertheless, the star’s injury doesn’t bode well for Julen Lopetegui’s side, who have gone out on five of the last six occasions when they have reached the Champions League round of 16.

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