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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future