Previews

PREVIEW: PSG v Chelsea

Diego Costa’s much awaited return to the Chelsea fold has been confirmed by manager Jose Mourinho ahead of the Blues’ showdown with Paris Saint-Germain.

Mourinho is worried, however with the lack of game time from his powerful centre forward due to a suspension that was dished out in the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the Capital One Cup.

“He will start but a long rest is not good for him,” the Special One conceded. “I don’t think it’s good for a player to be three weeks, or three matches, without starting a game. So I don’t think he’ll be in the best condition.

“A little rest is welcome for everyone; a big rest isn’t good for the players. So we are not going to see the best Diego. I hope I’m wrong, but probably he will need this game to try to get back to his best.”

Costa has not scored in the Champions League yet for Chelsea, despite leading the club’s goal scoring charts with 17 goals.

It is not a good omen for the West Londoners, who have not won on French soil since a 3-0 win, coincidentally over PSG, in September 2004, in what was Mourinho’s first Champions League match as Chelsea manager.

PSG themselves are unbeaten in 32 Champions League matches at home, a record that stretches back to December 2004, with their last home loss coming at the hands of CSKA Moscow, who won 1-3 at the Parc des Princes.

Laurent Blanc, PSG manager, is anxious of his side’s injury woes though, stating “You cannot play against Chelsea without being 100%”.

Yohan Cabaye (groin), Serge Aurier (thigh), Lucas Moura (also groin) and Thiago Motta (calf) will all miss tonight’s encounter

Not a problem Chelsea have though as only John Obi Mikel (knee) is unavailable for the away side and January addition Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina is eligible.

Oscar and Willian have “little problems” but are in contention for a starting birth, and the same can be said of play-maker Cesc Fabregas who looks to have recovered from a recent illness.

Chelsea are the only English team to have beaten PSG in France (with the aforementioned 3-0 in 2004, along with a win by the same score line in 1994-95).

Costa and co are the highest scorers in the Champions League this campaign with 17 goals, seven of which have come on the road, which will concern their French counterparts, as they have kept only one clean sheet in this season’s tournament (a 1-0 win over APOEL).

The 2012 champions are also unbeaten in their last four away European matches, as they look to take revenge from the 3-1 defeat they suffered here last season.

Ezequiel Lavezzi, an own goal by David Luiz (now at PSG), and Javier Pastore scored the goals for the hosts in April, with Eden Hazard’s penalty provided an away goal for Chelsea.

Andre Schurrle and a last minute goal by Demba Ba (both have since left Stamford Bridge) sent Chelsea through to the Semi Final.

“There is no room to rotate”, insists Hammers boss Allardyce

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has revealed that there “won’t be too many changes” for their FA Cup clash at Everton tonight.

“It’s not possible to play the best team each game due to fatigue levels, but, we’ve had four or five days rest which has helped so we can play a strong team,”Allardyce insisted.

The Hammers will be without Cheikhou Koyate and Diafra Sakho (Senegal) as well as Alex Song (Cameroon) who have left for the African Cup of Nations, while, James Tomkins (ankle) faces a late fitness test.

“Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan will play a big part, Ricardo Vaz Te might get an opportunity and Matt Jarvis will get a few games soon.

“We will play the strongest team available”.

Alladyce’s side are performing above all expectations in the league so far, sitting in seventh, but, are currently winless in three.

A 1-1 draw at West Brom followed back-to-back defeats to London rivals Arsenal (2-1) and Chelsea (2-0).

Roberto Martinez’s men are in a similar slump, losing four on the trot, away at Hull (2-0), Newcastle (3-2), Stoke at home (1-0) and Southampton (3-0).

Martinez has rubbished claims that his job is on the line.

“The truth is I feel under the same pressure when we win and when we lose because I always look forward,” Martinez said.

“My vision is to create a team that can become a winning team. Losing games forces you to try and find solutions and to look inside in a different way than when you win.”

PREVIEW: Manchester City vs CSKA Moscow (19:45 BST)

MANCHESTER City go into their fourth game of this season’s Champions League still looking for their first win of the group stage.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men have two points from a possible nine going into tonight’s clash at the Etihad, seven fewer than leaders Bayern Munich.

Opposition CSKA Moscow only have one point themselves, which they picked up in the reverse of this fixture, a 2-2 draw in Russia on October 21.

Russian champions CSKA fought back from two goals down, although Bedras Nacho’s equaliser from the spot four minutes from time came in controversial circumstances as Seydou Doumbia went down easily in the box.

That game was played in a near- empty stadium due to a ban on CSKA fans for racist abuse.

Premier League holders City have won four of their last five matches in the league, their most recent three points coming in the 1-0 Manchester derby win at home to Manchester United with Sergio Aguero’s goal separating the sides.

Moscow meanwhile are without a win in two domestically following a 0-1 home defeat vs Zenit St. Petersburg and a 3-3 draw against FC Ufa

Frank Lampard is expected to be fit for City and could make his first appearance since the Citizens’ 4-1 win over Tottenham.

Eliaquim Mangala and David Silva are also in contention to return but Aleksander Kolarov will definitely sit out the match with a calf injury.

CSKA however will be without Kirill Panchenko and Rasmus Elm who have knee and stomach problems respectively.

 

PREVIEW: Real Madrid vs Barcelona (Saturday 5pm BST)

Real Madrid welcome old foes Barcelona to Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday evening but will have to play the side who have still not conceded a league goal this season, without Gareth Bale.

The world’s most expensive player will miss the crunch match due to the same muscle injury that saw him sit out Madrid’s 0-3 midweek mauling of Liverpool in the Champions League.

Welsh wizard Bale was also an unused substitute in Real’s last league match at Levante in which the visitors cruised to a 0-5 win.

Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed however that Sergio Ramos will be fit for tomorrow’s derby.

Barcelona meanwhile will be without Thomas Vermaelen, Adriano and Sergio Busquets.

Luis Suarez is expected to feature in his first competitive game for Barca with this weekend marking his long awaited end to a four month ban that started in June for biting Giorgio Chiellini in Uruguay’s World Cup clash against Italy.

His new side did the double over Madrid last season, winning 2-1 at the Nou Camp and overcoming them again at Santiago Bernabeu in a ding dong battle that saw the away side return home with a 3-4 win.

It was a game in which Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick, two of which were penalties while his Ballon d’Or rival Ronaldo scored only once.

La Liga’s Catalan giants have kept clean sheets in all of their eight games this campaign, scoring 22 and only dropping points once so far (a 0-0 draw in Malaga).

Madrid haven’t been shy in front of goal though, notching 25 goals in their eight matches with Cristiano Ronaldo providing 14 of them.

However they already find themselves off the pace in the La Liga title race, having lost two games this season to Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad.

They are four points behind league leaders Barcelona but Saturday gives them the perfect opportunity to close the gap to just one.