After giving his side a lifeline with his crucial away goal in Paris a fortnight ago, Nigerian midfielder John Obi Mikel, is now focused on getting the job done in London tonight in the Second Leg Round of 16 tie against Paris Saint Germain.
Pictured after Chelsea’s last training session, Mikel seems to be oozing with so much confidence as the Blues get down to the task of upturning the 2-1 deficit suffered from the first leg.
Mikel has found a new lease of life under Coach Guus Hiddink who has transformed the Super Eagles star from a bench warmer to the engine room of Chelsea.
Having started just two of Chelsea’s final 16 Premier League games under Jose Mourinho, Mikel has started nine of 12 under Hiddink in the only notable non-enforced personnel change that the Dutchman has made to the starting XI.
As well as being unbeaten in their 12 league games to date under Hiddink, Chelsea’s average number of goals conceded per game has dropped from 1.625 to 1, and Mikel’s defensive nous has been an important factor as agreed by many.
“He’s (Mikel) the ideal player to bring balance to the team,” Hiddink said earlier this year. “He knows where the strength of the opponent is and he knows exactly how to cope with that. He doesn’t do it in a very brutal way – he’s very, very elegant. What I like to see very much is not just a quality player, but a player who can defend so smoothly. It’s beautiful to see,” he had added.
While victory will be the obvious target for Chelsea in Wednesday night’s clash, the game might reach extra-time and, if necessary, penalties, if the score after 90 minutes this evening is 2-1 to Chelsea. The away goals rule applies, so any other score will result in the game ending after normal time.
According to the records, Chelsea have won two of our last four competitive penalty shoot-outs. Since their success in the 2012 Champions League final, the team have lost against Bayern Munich in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup and Stoke in this season’s Capital One Cup.
PSG have lost their only shoot-out in European competition – against Rangers in the 2001/02 UEFA Cup.
For now, Mikel and Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho are the only Nigerians left in the hunt for glory in the world’s biggest club competition.