Chelsea v PSG: Ezequiel Lavezzi on a mission of revenge in Champions League tie at Stamford Bridge

Argentina striker is in the form of his life

Ezequiel Lavezzi has unfinished business at Stamford Bridge. Two years ago, when he played for Napoli, he shredded Chelsea in the first leg of a Champions League last-16 tie, scoring twice and setting up a 3-1 lead. When Napoli came to SW6, though, they were overturned. The first European win of Roberto Di Matteo’s brief reign has already entered the Chelsea mythology.

That was the beginning of the end of that thrilling Napoli team and a few months later Lavezzi was sold to Paris Saint-Germain. He was joined a year on by Edinson Cavani, the Uruguayan striker who is more about balletic grace than Lavezzi, with his scampering feet and his firework burst.

In Parisian terms those two are mere mortals, as team-mates of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But the giant Swede has been ruled out of tonight’s Champions League quarter-final return, with a hamstring injury suffered in the first leg. Lavezzi and Cavani will have to try to wreak their revenge on Chelsea by themselves.

Chelsea v PSG - match preview

Laurent Blanc, the PSG manager, certainly believes Lavezzi can do some damage. At last night’s press conference at Stamford Bridge, Blanc predicted a big night for the stocky Argentine. “In the first leg we saw Chelsea defend very compactly on the edge of their box,” Blanc explained, “which leaves you space on the flanks. That is fantastic for ‘Pocho’ [Lavezzi], who has a lot of speed and can exploit that space and break through. He caused problems in that first leg. Will they play a higher line in this match? If they do, there’ll be space behind for Lavezzi and others.”

Read more: Mourinho should accept the blame if Chelsea go out - Cruyff
Mourinho to gamble on Eto'o over Torres and Ba
Lavezzi - on a revenge mission

This could be the perfect night for Lavezzi, who is more a player of great games than a great player. This is his seventh year in European football and he has never scored 10 league goals in a season. He turns 29 next month and has only won two domestic titles, one in Argentina and one in France, although Paris are certain to retain their Ligue 1 title in the next few weeks.

Key confrontations: Ivanovic v Lavezzi - The winger was a key outlet in Paris, and with Chelsea needing goals tonight the visitors will look to utilise his pace on the break. Lavezzi could exploit the space Ivanovic leaves when going forward. Key confrontations: Ivanovic v Lavezzi - The winger was a key outlet in Paris, and with Chelsea needing goals tonight the visitors will look to utilise his pace on the break. Lavezzi could exploit the space Ivanovic leaves when going forward. (Getty Images)
Lavezzi has always been a player of moments and spurts, but the bad news for Chelsea is that he is in one of the best runs of his career. He hit a brilliant goal in the first leg, stabbing the ball into the top corner, and has scored recently against Bayer Leverkusen, Toulouse, Bastia and Valenciennes.

 

That last was the goal that meant more than any other, that seemed to turn his time at Paris around. Just days before, Lavezzi’s uncle Jorge had been shot dead in Rosario. Jorge had been his first football coach, at a small club called Coronel Aguirre, whose badge is tattooed on Lavezzi’s calf, and where his father is still president. Lavezzi agonised but decided to play, scored, and pointed to the sky.

There was no doubt that the first 18 months of Lavezzi’s time in Paris were underwhelming. He did not have the same easy connection with the city or the people as he did in Naples, where he was embraced as one of their own, after his €6m transfer from San Lorenzo in 2007. “In Naples, I could call any restaurant, even at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night, and be sure of getting a table,” he said. “Here, if it’s full, it’s full. Even if you’re called Lavezzi.”

Key confrontations: Hazard v Jallet - If Chelsea are to overturn the deficit, they’ll need their star performer to come to the party. Hazard has been the creative force for Mourinho this season, and his trickery will worry the experienced Jallet. Key confrontations: Hazard v Jallet - If Chelsea are to overturn the deficit, they’ll need their star performer to come to the party. Hazard has been the creative force for Mourinho this season, and his trickery will worry the experienced Jallet. (Getty Images)
The adulation for Lavezzi in Naples was almost too much. He was mobbed wherever he went by fans who saw in him much of their own attitude – cheeky, anarchic, passionate. Just above his left hip he has a tattoo of Diego Maradona, and, in personality and in style, he was the closest thing those fans had had to El Diego in a generation.

That enthusiasm for enjoyment away from football has sometimes held Lavezzi back. Team-mate Blaise Matuidi says he is the “bon vivant” of the PSG team and he is never happier than when hosting parties at home in Neuilly-sur-Seine. When he arrived in France, Lavezzi told football magazine Surface: “If I have a chance to party then I will, no problem.” He later admitted that people saw it as detrimental to his performance. After a Champions League game against Manchester City in 2011, Lavezzi was seen with Sergio Aguero and Aguero’s father, opening a bottle of beer with his teeth.

Key confrontations: Terry v Cavani - With Ibrahimovic missing, the PSG line will be led by another big-money striker. Quiet in the first leg, Cavani will fancy his chances against Terry, who was not at his best in Paris. Key confrontations: Terry v Cavani - With Ibrahimovic missing, the PSG line will be led by another big-money striker. Quiet in the first leg, Cavani will fancy his chances against Terry, who was not at his best in Paris. (Getty Images)

Lavezzi is not an Aguero and never will be. At 16 he failed a trial at Boca Juniors and thought about training as an electrician. He had to play in the third tier, for Estudiantes of Buenos Aires, before he was signed by Genoa and then loaned back to San Lorenzo, where he started to shine.

Suggested Topics
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
News
i100
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
News
news
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Extras
indybest
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup