Jose Mourinho has welcomed a “little rest” for his Chelsea squad ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.
The Premier League leaders travel to Paris to meet the Ligue 1 champions in the first leg of their last-16 clash on Tuesday, and will be confident having beaten Laurent Blanc’s side in the quarter-finals on away goals last season.
Mourinho, who is bidding to win the competition with a third different club, hopes the Blues will benefit from a rare weekend off after a shock FA exit at home to Bradford on January 24 allows his side extended preparation ahead of their trip to France.
“The rest is welcome for us,” Mourinho said. “In the end [PSG] have only one game that we don’t have. It’s only one more game, but I welcome this little rest for the players.”
The Portuguese coach will be hoping Eden Hazard can recreate his form at Parc des Princes last season to help Chelsea navigate past PSG.
The French champions scarcely hid their interest in the Belgium international prior to the quarter-finals and, after a 3-1 loss at Parc des Princes, he wore one of their shirts.
But the away goal, scored by Hazard from the penalty spot, enabled Chelsea to edge into the semis when Demba Ba – little used and sold last summer – scored a dramatic, last-gasp goal at Stamford Bridge in the return leg.
Despite PSG’s interest, Hazard signed a long-term contract extension at Chelsea this week after playing a significant role in their title challenge, and the 24-year-old will bid to eliminate Blanc’s men once again.
David Luiz was sold by Chelsea to PSG for £50 million last summer prior to the World Cup, and his tussle with Diego Costa – set to return following a three-match domestic suspension – will be among the more intriguing aspects of the contest.
Chelsea, seven points clear in the Premier League, will also likely play Cesc Fabregas from the start, while Petr Cech could keep his place in goal ahead of Thibaut Courtois following his heroics against Everton.
Another interesting Blues selection comes in central defence, with Mourinho having to decide on whether Gary Cahill or 20-year-old France defender Kurt Zouma will partner captain John Terry.