Both Paris Saint-Germain and their Champions League quarterfinal opponents Chelsea will probably be pretty pleased with the outcome of today's draw, and the neutral should be too. Neither side sits alongside Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or an ever-more-shaky Barcelona as a genuine favourite, though both have sufficiently talented players to push them close. Hopefully we'll see an incredibly tight couple of games.
Under Laurent Blanc, PSG have perhaps looked more impressive than ever before, even if they were only knocked out on away goals by Barcelona at the quarterfinal stage last year. Despite fellow newly-minted team Monaco bursting onto the Ligue 1 scene, the Parisians have still managed to open up an eight point gap at the top of the table, and blew away Bayer Leverkusen 6-1 on aggregate in the first Champions League knockout round.
They still have issues of fitting Edinson Cavani into the attack alongside Zlatan Ibrahimović, but otherwise Laurent Blanc seems to have struck a good balance with his starting 11. The permanent switch to a midfield trio instead of Carlo Ancelotti's 4-4-2 has helped them find a balance in midfield, with Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi able to negate the defensive troubles caused by the creative-but-lazy Marco Verratti.
Meanwhile, Chelsea don't really look like a team that should be siting atop the Premier League. They're lacking a great centre forward and are short of one or two central midfielders. On squad alone, Manchester City look scarier. But what the Blues do have is the best manager in the league: José Mourinho. His extraordinary ability to produce results has been in evidence again this season, and, with eight games to go, they're narrowly in pole position to lift the title.
In the past, Mourinho hasn't had a problem achieving in Europe with underdogs, memorably lifting the Champions League with Porto back in 2004, and only marginally less-impressively winning it against the odds with Inter Milan in 2010. Chelsea might not look spectacular throughout their starting 11, but suffice to say, they're going to be a tough opponent for anyone. It might not always be pretty, but Mourinho has a track record of surpassing expectations.
It's probably because of this -- and PSG's failure to ever make a serious mark in the Champions League before -- that Chelsea head in as marginal favourites. But trying to seriously predict a winner is extremely difficult.
Paris Saint-Germain: Zlatan Ibrahimović - Who else? Perhaps the third greatest footballer of our time, Zlatan continues to look more and more impressive. He's 33 now, and should probably be on the decline. But Zlatan doesn't do probable. Capable of finding the back of the net from all angles and ranges, he's going to be extremely hard for the Chelsea defenders to stop. His physicality means he isn't just a scoring threat, but is quite capable of holding the ball up or dropping deep to thread through teammates making diagonal runs. If Gary Cahill and John Terry keep him quiet, half of Chelsea's defensive work is done.
Chelsea: Eden Hazard - Chelsea aren't the most technical of sides in Europe, but Eden Hazard is certainly an exception. The Belgian is the Blues' key creative force, serving as an outlet on the left flank and usually drifting in to create magic and havoc in equal measure. He'll nominally be up against PSG's first-choice right-back Gregory van der Wiel, though will frequently look for pockets of space in front of the centre-backs. If the Parisians aren't coordinated in their handling of Hazard, they're in big trouble.
PSG's defence vs. Chelsea's transitions - The most intriguing matchup in this contest is a stylistic one. With PSG liking to control possession and José Mourinho's sides traditionally not so bothered, the key to this tie will be Chelsea's quick transitions from defence to attack. Thanks to the use of energetic forwards like Willian, they've managed to convincingly win games this season with brutal counter-attacks -- most notably their victory over title rivals Manchester City last month. If PSG are sucked too high up the field, then they'll be lucky to avoid punishment.