Keep things jolly with double

  • By: Andy Schooler
  • Last Updated: April 3 2014, 8:29 BST

Our Andy Schooler is backing the favourites in Wednesday's Champions League quarter-final first legs.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Main man for PSG
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Main man for PSG

Football favourite-backers have enjoyed some pretty good days of late and that looks the way to go in Wednesday night's Champions League quarter-finals.

The programme includes what the bookies make the tie of the round in terms of its tightness - Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea is a pick 'em with regard to who makes the last four.

However, the richly-assembled French side look worth siding with in the first leg at the Parc des Princes.

Jose Mourinho has spent much of the season doing a fabulous job of taking the pressure off his players by feeding the media some great soundbites, usually about how Chelsea are big outsiders to do absolutely anything.

However, when he spoke at Tuesday's press conference, there was a sense he was finally speaking openly.

We saw his frank assessment of his strikeforce earlier in the year when a private conversation was taped and those sentiments came out again on Tuesday. He appears to have hit the nail on the head for this is when it looks as if Chelsea's major problem could come home to roost.

Speaking about PSG's talented forward line, one which includes Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi, he said: "It's a team full of fantastic strikers and goalscorers and that is what really makes the difference in this level.

''You look to the teams in the top eight at this moment, all of them good teams, good structures, with a certain philosophy, but after that you go and you see (Barcelona's Lionel) Messi, (Real Madrid's Cristiano) Ronaldo, (Borussia Dortmund's Robert) Lewandowski, Diego Costa, Ibrahimovic, (Edison) Cavani,(Ezequiel) Lavezzi.

''They (PSG) have lots of them. At this level it's a very important part of a team.''

That is certainly what Chelsea fans making the hop across the Channel will fear, knowing deep down that their own strike weapons look considerably blunter; for this clash it will likely be Fernando Torres up front with Samuel Eto'o out injured.

It's looked that way all season with the loaned-out Romelu Lukaku's name never far from any discussion about Chelsea's lack of goals from their strikers.

And as the season heads towards its conclusion, there are signs that the problem has become a major one. No longer has the talent packed into the Blues' midfield been able to bail them out and there have been some damaging results in recent weeks.

Most of those have come away from home with Chelsea losing (and failing to score) at Aston Villa and, most recently, Crystal Palace. Listless performances against two of the Premier League's poorer sides do not bode well ahead of a game of this importance.

All told, Chelsea have won just one of their last six on their travels and some of their home wins appear to have papered over some cracks. They only just beat Everton before Spurs imploded with a staggering display of defensive ineptitude, while Arsenal were also architects of their own downfall and played more than 70 minutes with just 10 men.

In contrast, PSG look in the sort of form to take advantage. They've won their last nine games, keeping seven clean sheets and conceding just three goals in the process.

Never short on confidence, Ibrahimovic himself says he's enjoying the best season of his career and he's spot on. The Swede used to have a tendency to disappoint in the big games, particularly against English opposition, but that's looked a thing of the past more recently and he'll be a major threat here.

Ably supported by Lavezzi and Cavani, he's helped ensure that PSG have scored in every game bar one this season (and that was an away match).

The biggest worry for any potential backer is will they be able to step up? Yes, Ligue 1 doesn't have the depth of the Premier League and on paper this looks PSG's toughest task of the campaign so far.

However, the Qatari money has packed their side with talent - Thiago Silva, Blaise Matuidi, Yohan Cabaye should all be familiar names to true followers of the game - and they must feel they've got something to prove here and show they can really contend for the trophy.

PSG are a shade of odds-against, which I'll take, but I'll also add Real Madrid to turn it into a double worth almost 2/1.

The free-scoring Spaniards host Borussia Dortmund in what is a rematch of last season's semi-final which the Germans won 4-3 on aggregate.

Robert Lewandowski famously bagged four goals of the first leg of that tie to lay the foundation for Dortmund's eventual progression but he won't play this time due to suspension.

He's just one of several key men missing for Dortmund. Neven Subotic, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Sven Bender are also absent, as will be Ilkay Gundogan and Marcel Schmelzer.

In short, the visitors look severely weakened and going to the Bernabeu in a patched-up state doesn't bode well.

OK, Real have, like Chelsea, slipped up domestically of late but I still expect the foward power of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale to be way too strong for the Germans and they look solid picks for any multiple bets.

  • Posted at 2245 BST on 01/04/2014.