Edinson Cavani must fill the void left by talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic when Paris Saint-Germain takes on Chelsea in the Champions League.
Ibrahimovic limped out of PSG's 3-1 quarterfinal first-leg win over the Premier League side last week with a hamstring strain that is set to keep him on the sidelines for a significant chunk of this month.
On Saturday, Cavani reverted to a central striking role in his teammate's absence and delivered an impressive display, opening the scoring in a 3-0 win over Reims that moved Laurent Blanc's side a step closer to retaining its Ligue 1 title.
PSG's domestic dominance allowed Blanc to cast an eye toward the meeting with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, which will see the French club aiming to book its first Champions League semifinal appearance in 19 years.
Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi were all named among the substitutes against Reims and the latter two remained on the bench throughout.
PSG's other two strikes at the weekend were a pair of own goals from the unfortunate Aissa Mandi — continuing a helpful quirk after Chelsea defender David Luiz scored on his own net at the Parc des Princes last Wednesday.
Luiz’s error made the score 2-1, a state of affairs Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho may have found perfectly acceptable because of Eden Hazard's valuable away goal from the penalty spot. However, Javier Pastore's stoppage-time strike tipped the tie in the French champions' favor.
Nevertheless, Chelsea is one of the few teams with a precedent for overturning a two-goal deficit. On its way to Champions League glory in 2011-12, Chelsea welcomed Napoli to Stamford Bridge on the back of a 3-1 first-leg defeat, but ultimately progressed after extra time with a 4-1 triumph.
Napoli's team on that day contained Cavani and Lavezzi, who will no doubt be wary of another comeback. Additionally, the recent record of Chelsea and its manager in European competitions stands up against any in the game.
Having ended owner Roman Abramovich's impatient wait for the continent's premier trophy in 2012, Chelsea bounced back from group-stage demotion last season by collecting the Europa League at Benfica's expense.
Mourinho is chasing a third Champions League title, having hoisted the trophy while in charge of Porto and Inter. In eight career European quarterfinal ties, the Portuguese has never been defeated.
When it last visited England for a competitive fixture in December 2008, PSG secured a 0-0 Europa League draw at Manchester City — a result that would more than suit its aims on this occasion. But the significant firepower at Blanc's disposal, even allowing for Ibrahimovic's absence, means such a scoreline appears unlikely.
In away Champions League wins this season at Olympiakos, Anderlecht and Bayer Leverkusen, PSG has found the net 13 times.
- Sports & Recreation
- Laurent Blanc
- Ezequiel Lavezzi