If Jose Mourinho is headed into a match that frightens him, he’s going to play the referee card. This time? Heading into the second leg in the Champions League knockout stage against Paris Saint-Germain, he’s talking about his opponents’ aggression.
He forgot he has players called Nemanja Matic, Diego Costa, John Terry and others who aren’t exactly soft or shy. Dirty, aggressive, it seem all to be in the eye of the fan and what team he supports. But Mourinho is after one thing, besides, obviously, winning the match: Tipping the scales in his favor and trying to get some home field advantage by making stuff up.
Laurent Blanc is busy talking about aggression himself. His focus? For his players to not let the antics of Diego Costa, a man shielded by Mourinho and allowed to act like a playground bully without, somehow, getting sent off even once this season despite various attempts to physically, intentionally, harm other players.
He likes contact, and provokes opposition players. That’s part of his game. He thrives off that. He really needs that to bring out the best in his performances. The most important thing is to not get caught up in the way he plays. He will try to provoke a reaction. We need to stay calm, not get caught up in his game. We need to be as effective as possible in stopping him. It’s up to us to try to take some risks, but not lose our heads and take unnecessary risks.
Blanc has a lot more riding on this match than Mourinho. With the championship getting closer and closer to Lyon, failing to get past the round of 16 in the Champions League might cost the French manager his job. Last season PSG dropped a 3-1 lead from the first leg at Stamford Bridge, and this time are forced to score, facing the disadvantage of conceding an own goal.
Last season, Zlatan Ibrahimovic missed the match at Stamford Bridge. This time he’s healthy, and once again this is his “last” chance to try and win the one club trophy he’s been missing from his packed awards cabinet at home. Blanc also need to hope Thibaut Courtois isn’t as sharp as he was in Paris, although it’s rare to catch the Belgian goalkeeper actually having a bad day.