5 talking points from Wednesday's Champions League action

Our thoughts on Chelsea’s decidedly un-Chelsea-like performance and much more.

Chelsea's David Luiz scores an own goal in tonight's game.
Chelsea's David Luiz scores an own goal in tonight's game.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

1. Chelsea produce a decidedly un-Chelsea-like performance

Over the years, Chelsea have gained a reputation as a team for the big occasion.

While the Londoners’ Premier League form has been inconsistent in recent seasons, their respective triumphs in the Champions League and the Europa League have illustrated that they are a match for any side at their best.

Yet while they have generally overperformed in Europe, they were conspicuously below par in such a big game this evening.

Has their confidence been rocked due to recent bad results, or is tiredness beginning to affect a squad that lacks depth amid the end of a long season?

Either way, it was surprising to see a defence that has been impeccable in recent months committing elementary errors for all three goals tonight.

2. Bale proving his worth at Madrid

Many people doubted whether Gareth Bale was worth his lucrative price tag when he first signed for Real, but he is certainly not disgracing himself with his recent performances.

He had another good game tonight and scored the all-important first goal as Madrid earned what was ultimately a comfortable victory over Dortmund.

Following a slow start to life in Spain, Bale has improved as the year’s developed and as he’s reached full fitness after an injury-interrupted summer, netting 17 goals in total for Madrid so far this season.

Nevertheless, while his recent performances have been hugely encouraging, there will always be doubts until the Welsh star helps inspire Real to some silverware.

Recent poor domestic performances mean Bale’s club are now ousiders to win La Liga, so the Champions League could prove his best chance at obtaining a first trophy in what has largely been a highly creditable first season abroad.

3. Javier Pastore outshines PSG’s more established stars

While PSG ultimately secured a positive result against Chelsea tonight, there was a sense of slight anti-climax — at least, initially — about the tie.

Chelsea’s crucial first-half away goal rendered the home crowd restless, while many of the French club’s big stars, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edinson Cavani, delivered distinctly underwhelming displays.

So it was left to Pastore — the Argentine international who has had a difficult time since moving to PSG for €39.8 million and has often found first-team football hard to come by amid the club’s coterie of stars — to provide a moment of inspiration.

While at 2-1, Chelsea seemed well in the tie, Pastore’s goal means his side now have considerable breathing space. However, as both Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi learned with Napoli two seasons ago, 3-1 is not an easy lead to go to Stamford Bridge with.

4. Despite suggestions to the contrary, Chelsea aren’t better without strikers

Chelsea operated with a false-nine formation for a substantial portion of their game with PSG tonight.

While they managed to score one goal during this period, they for the most part lacked a significant threat going forward and created few clear-cut chances.

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So despite some suggestions that Chelsea would be better off without any of their increasingly hapless strikers on the field, tonight constituted a failed experiment, with Schurrle patently ineffectual in the most advanced role.

Mourinho effectively admitted as much by hauling the German off and replacing him with the much-maligned Fernando Torres.

Although the Spanish striker didn’t offer much of an improvement thereafter, he at least looked somewhat comfortable in this advanced role.

5. Hard not to sympathise with Dortmund’s predicament

Dortmund were well beaten by a superior Madrid side tonight, but with almost half their team unavailable, it was hard not to sympathise with them to an extent.

Against Real Madrid’s formidable array of talent, they had little hope of emulating their achievement of last year, beating the Spanish side over two legs, and though there remains one more game to play, the tie appears effectively over following tonight’s developments.

Yet rather than castigating Dortmund for delivering an inept display on such a big stage, perhaps it’s more appropriate to marvel at how they came this far in the first place.

After all, they are a side who have consistently lost some of their best players to bigger clubs in recent seasons, and whose wage bill is even lower than QPR — a Championship side in England.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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