After what has felt like an age, the Champions League finally returned to the big stage this week in the grandiose location of Paris.
While Chelsea’s visit to the French capital to take on PSG hardly produced a thrilling spectacle of attacking football, however, it did provide the type of tension and drama that has become synonymous Europe’s premier cup competition.
The game certainly followed a predictable pattern, as Chelsea’s restrained and largely unambitious performance earned a 1-1 draw and established the Londoner’s as clear favourites to progress.
With this in mind, what lessons can we take from an error-strewn and at times uninspiring game? Consider the following:
1. Courtois is Chelsea’s No.1
While Chelsea remain on course for the Premier League title, they have endured some poor results and inconsistent form of late. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is one player who has felt the brunt of this, having been removed from the starting line-up and replaced with the experienced Petr Cech for several key games in recent time.
He returned to the fold against PSG, however, as Jose Mourinho delivered an impressive show of faith in his young custodian and reinforced his preferred first eleven. Courtois certainly repaid this faith, making several crucial saves and repelling numerous PSG attacks in the second half.
2. Chelsea Retain the Ability to Grind Out Results
Like Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in its prime, Chelsea retain an innate ability to grind out results and achieve their aims without excelling. This is a learned ability that often comes with experience, while it has also been honed and refined by one of the world's most obdurate coaches in Jose Mourinho.
They certainly played within themselves in the French capital, and were content to retain possession and limit their attacking threat to counter-attacks. While this may seem like a dangerous ploy, it achieved the ideal result and has placed the Blues in prime position to progress.
3. Ramires Makes Chelsea a More Durable Outfit
Like first-leg goalscorer Branislav Ivanovic, Brazilian midfielder Ramires has earned a reputation as a big-game players with pace, strength and considerable coolness. He is also a significant goal-threat, as his integration into the starting eleven for the clash with PSG underlines how highly he is valued by Mourinho.
On an interesting note, he also adds a sense of protection and durability to the Chelsea midfield, which has occasionally looked threadbare when the attack-minded Cesc Fabregas has partnered Nemanja Matic. This frailty was breathtakingly exposed during the Blues’ 5-3 thrashing at Tottenham earlier in the season, and Ramires’ presence is certainly reassuring for the team.
Chelsea fans: Do you agree with this? Have your say in the comments section below!