Chelsea’s defenders are in fine form at the moment – not just in their day jobs of snuffing out opponent’s attacks but in scoring at the right end too.
Six of the Blues’ last 11 goals have been scored by men who operate in the club’s back line – four of them by Branislav Ivanovic alone – but as Paris Saint-Germain arrive for the second leg of the pair’s Champions League round-of-16 tussle, their focus will be fully trained on defending.
The criteria for quarter-final qualification couldn’t be clearer for the 5/11 chances: stop their French opponents from scoring, then find a comfy chair to kick back and watch the draw in.
For a manager as clean-sheet hungry as Jose Mourinho that challenge couldn’t be more perfect.
Renowned for a ruthless pursuit of defensive perfection, the Portuguese manager relishes these kind of tight two-legged affairs where most would shudder at the thought of them.
Just as recently as the Capital One Cup final against Tottenham, Mourinho sent out a side clearly drilled to within an inch of its life in shutting down the Lilywhites’ prowess.
While many would be biting their nails in such a scenario, The Special One was relaxed to the point of friskiness on the sidelines.
The regularity with which Mourinho-managed teams are able to claim clean sheets when the pressure cooker is at its hottest is astounding.
Freshest in the memory, on a European stage at least, is the battle with PSG one stage later than this last season. Chelsea fielded five defenders in their lineup that night, shutting out the Parisians and advancing on away goals.
Should they repeat their clean-sheet trick at Stamford Bridge, rated a 9/20 chance with bwin.com, then the role of the defenders in stopping Zlatan and co and scoring their vital away goal will be lauded.
Besides the air of inevitability that surrounds a Mourinho-masterminded clean sheet, there are stats to back the theory up too.
PSG have never scored an away goal against English opposition in a European competition, while the Blues are unbeaten in six games at home to French rivals in the Champions League, keeping five clean sheets in that time.
For anyone fancying the Chelsea defence to come to the rescue at both ends of the pitch again, red-hot Ivanovic can be backed at 7/1 to score at anytime, with other recent scorers John Terry at 8s,and Gary Cahill at 13s.
The tie may remain in the balance at 1-1 on aggregate the Stamford Bridge side are 2/5 to qualify, with Laurent Blanc’s men 2/1.
Chelsea are favourites in the match betting too at 11/10 to claim victory inside 90 minutes, with the draw 23/10 and the away win 14/5.