Belfast Telegraph

Paul Scholes: Jose Mourinho's praise for 'great team' is premature

By Paul Scholes

In the build-up to the first leg against Paris Saint-Germain last month, Jose Mourinho said that his Chelsea side could already be considered "a great team," a remark that struck me at the time as premature.

Great teams do not play away in Europe and create just one goalscoring chance in the course of a game, as Chelsea did in Paris. And great teams certainly do not fail to beat opponents reduced to 10 men at home, as Chelsea did on Wednesday night.

Having been in Paris for the first leg I felt that PSG were a good side and should have won that match.

I wrote in these pages then that they were likely to score in London. What I did not envisage was that they would be able to do so without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

That said, getting through difficult two-leg ties despite adversity is what good sides do in the Champions League.

Even down to 10 men, PSG carried on creating chances, like the one in the second half that ended with Edinson Cavani hitting the post.

That's what the top teams do, even away from home. Chelsea's failure to create chances in Paris, and then again this week, shows how far they have to go to be considered among the very best in Europe.

It has the potential to be a bleak seven days for the Premier League, with Chelsea already out of the Champions League and Arsenal and Manchester City both chasing defeats from their first legs, in Monaco and Barcelona next week.

We might have the most exciting league in the world, but the quality at the very top end does not compare with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and PSG.

Chelsea will most likely win the league this season, although their football has not been outstanding. Of all the teams in the Premier League it is City who play the most attractive football when they are on song, but they have been at their best too few times this season to stay on top of the league.

There has not been a consistently excellent side in the Premier League this season, and that has been reflected in the Champions League results.

As for Wednesday's game, I hardly need to say that it was not a red card for Ibrahimovic. I could tell that he knew he was going off when he looked up and saw every single outfield Chelsea player around the referee telling him to get his red card out.

I accept that at Manchester United, we could also pressurise the referee at times and the picture of Andy D'Urso being backed into a corner is often held up in evidence, but we realised that it had become too extreme and from that point there was much less of it. Chelsea would not be the first team to pressurise a referee but they have to know when they have gone too far. Against PSG the tactic worked in getting Ibrahimovic dismissed, but it became so extreme that referees will be prepared for it in future.

They will have it highlighted in their preparation and they won't want to make the same mistake that Bjorn Kuipers made on Wednesday.

I like the way that my old team-mate Laurent Blanc carries himself on the touchline. He happens to be one of the most relaxed men you will ever meet, and that will not change even though he has been under a lot of pressure of late. There are no touchline antics with Laurent, no attempts to try to referee the game himself.

Even when they were under pressure, PSG still tried to create chances. They didn't just put everyone behind the ball. When you have the players PSG have, then eventually you will be rewarded for that kind of approach - and on Wednesday they got the result they deserved.

Belfast Telegraph


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