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Champions League Preview

Paris Saint-Germain vs Chelsea

The French champions are experiencing a bit of an injury crisis following their recent league encounter with Caen.  Serge Aurier, Yohan Cabaye and Lucas Moura have already been ruled while Marquinhos, Maxwell, Blaise Matuidi and Thiago Motta are considered doubtful for the clash.  Coach Laurent Blanc will use last year’s devastating exit to Chelsea as motivation for his squad.  The late Demba Ba strike separated the two sides on away goals in the previous years competition. With all the injuries, it would be easy to discount this PSG side, however they are full of attacking talent.  Led by the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the hard-working Edinson Cavani will provide plenty of pressure to the Chelsea backline.  The play of the Argentine duo Javier Pastore and Ezequiel Lavezzi will be key for the French side to unlock the stout Chelsea defense.  It will be an emotion night for defender David Luiz, facing his former side after his £50M move away from Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea will reinstate controversial striker Diego Costa following his recent suspension for his stamp on Liverpool's Emre Can.  Chelsea will have a near full strength side, with only John Obi Mikel being a doubt. Being an opening away fixture Mourinho will probably employ his park the bus tactic (but then again when doesn't he?!)  The main problem will be the selection of John Terry's partner in the center of defense.  The poor form of Gary Cahill has seen him dropped for the inexperienced and a touch raw Kurt Zouma.  In a fixture of this magnitude we may see Branislav Ivanovic shifted centrally from his right back spot.  Playing on the counter, Fabregas will be the key component for Chelsea as he looks to play Costa, Hazard, and Willian through quickly on the break. 

Key Battle: Matic & Fabregas against Verratti & Rabiot.  With the injuries to PSG's midfield the young duo will have to play at a high level to compete against arguably the best Premiership midfield partnership.

Shakhtar Donetsk vs Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich come into this game fresh off their 8-0 thrashing of Bundesliga opponents Hamburg.  Arjen Robben has been in electric form following a World Cup summer.  With 14 goals scored, he is the focal point of the German giants.  The form of Thomas Mueller has not faltered either, 9 goals and 7 assists.  8 points clear and only 1 league loss, the Bavarian side are in rampant form domestically.  Pep Guardiola will look to push his Bayern side to renew their previous Champions League triumphs, but a trip to Ukraine can always be a difficult one for a side of any quality.

Shakhtar have yet to play a competitive match this calender year.  The domestic season kicks off later this month.  The conflict in Ukraine will see this match relocated to 750 miles from Shakhtar's home stadium. Shakhtar's Donbass Arena was damaged last year during a Russian shell attack.  The 34,900-capacity Arena Lviv - home of Ukrainian Premier League side Karpaty Lviv will be the venue for this clash.  While Shakhtar may not be a household name, they are side full of South American talent.  Forward Luiz Adriano has bagged 9 goals in the previous 5 Champions League matches.  Brazlian talents Taison, Alex Teixeira, and Diego Costa provide some attacking force that will force Bayern to stay at home defensively.  Croatian Darijo Srna will captain the side, he has always been a personal favorite of mine.

Key Battle:  Shakhtar's attacking players work rates.  If they can provide the necessary effort to press Bayern high to prevent their pass heavy attack, it could lead to the counter attacking chance they will need to cool this red-hot Munich side.


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