Jose Mourinho was brought back to Chelsea to win a European Cup. It looked like he might have the side to do it last season, but then the Blues ran into Paris Saint-Germain. Some bad luck, some questionable refereeing and a weirdly poor performance later, PSG were through to the quarterfinals and Chelsea were left to start planning for next season. It's here, and they're going to have to play PSG in the Champions League Round of 16 again.
Chelsea are having a very bad time in the Premier League and almost certainly are not going to finish in the top four. You may recall what happened the last time this was the case -- Chelsea won the Champions League. And with an interim manager, no less. They've also made a Champions League final and won Europa League with interim managers, so clearly Roman Abramovich is going about this crisis all wrong by backing Mourinho.
Problems aside, Chelsea still have quite a good squad and won their group by handing a commanding defeat to a solid FC Porto side in their last group stage match. They may be underdogs against Paris Saint-Germain, but only slightly. This is among the most evenly matched ties in the Round of 16.
Key player: Nemanja Matic
Eden Hazard is the star, but Matic is the key to everything for Chelsea. He's being asked to protect a midfielder with serious deficiencies no matter who plays next to him, as well as a slow and aging defense. If he doesn't play well, Chelsea can't beat elite competition.
Since 2012-13, when a petrodollar-fueled Paris Saint-Germain returned to the top table of European football, the club have never failed to make the knockout stages of the Champions League. But they've never made it beyond the quarter-finals either, having been evicted twice by Barcelona and once by Chelsea. The message is clear: They're good, but they're not quite there. Yet.
Still, there's as much talent in their ranks as any other team, and though they couldn't pip Real Madrid to top spot in Group A, they dealt handily with both Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo. It's a little confusing to see that Zlatan Ibrahimovic appears to be aging like some mere mortal, but with Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani and Lucas Moura all knocking around, as well as the estimable Blaise Matuidi, there's plenty of backup should the Swede find his powers waning. And while the defence might look dubious on paper -- write down the word "David" next to the word "Luiz" and see if you can avoid shuddering -- they only conceded one goal in the entire group stage, making them the most parsimonious team in the competition.
Key player: Angel Di Maria
Mr. Miserable of Manchester was permitted to leave Old Trafford after just one deeply disappointing season, though since he'd wanted to move to Paris anyway, you can't imagine he was too upset. Di Maria was brought to PSG specifically to transform Laurent Blanc's men into a team capable of reaching the deepest parts of this competition, and though Blanc described Di Maria's early-season form as average, his coach is positive that his adaptation will go well. For the sake of the project, he needs to rediscover the form that made him Real Madrid's man of the match in the 2014 final.
It's going to be really close. PSG wins after extra time, on penalties, or via away goals.