Exploratory drilling: Paris Saint-Germain 1, Chelsea 1

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NEW YORK – Yankee Stadium welcomed two of world soccer’s richest teams on Sunday, with a late Lucas Piazon goal pulling back Nene’s first half opener, leaving Paris Saint-Germain and drawn Chelsea 1-1.

Players of Note:

  • Nene played at the center of a PSG forward line that stayed off Chelsea’s defense, intent on hitting them with a head of steam when they got the ball. Used predominantly in wide positions last season, the Brazilian’s Sunday deployment showed why it’s very difficult to imagine a starting XI without him in the team.
  • Ezequiel Lavezzi seemed to tire by the end of the first half, the former Napoli attacker having spent the first 40 minutes charging at Chelsea’s defense as if he were still at the San Paolo. The way Carlo Ancelotti deployed his forwards, you wonder if Lavezzi will make PSG more reliant on generating chances through transition … not that we can make too many conclusions when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not around.
  • Javier Pastore played left-center in midfield, but with Lavezzi pinching in from that side, Pastore had a lot of space when he pushed forward from midfield. The set up also afforded him room when he got the ball, with PSG’s goal coming after he was able to break down Gary Cahill and put a shot of the left post. Nene put home the rebound.
  • For the second match in a row, Eden Hazard played behind Romelu Lukaku in Roberto Di Matteo’s 4-4-2 variant. Though it remains a bit difficult to see how Chelsea would play this formation when their full team is together, Hazard as a number 10 has the virtue of giving Chelsea a clear focal point in attack. Tonight, nothing came of it, though his skill on the ball was obvious.
  • And Frank Lampard is clearly going to remain an important part of this team. Paired with John Obi Mikel in the middle, Lampard constantly looked for chances to get forward and present an outlet in the space behind Chelsea’s attackers.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Romelu Lukaku’s two goals against Seattle seemed more a function of Seattle’s defense than his own skill. But doubles being doubles, he got some benefit of the doubt. Against PSG, however, he was a non-factor, shut down by Alex and (mostly) Mamadou Sakho.
  • Gael Kakuta, sent out on loan each of the last two years, did himself no favors on Sunday. Particularly with the new players Chelsea’s brought in, Kakuta doesn’t seem to have a place at the club.
  • Kevin De Bruyne is one of those players that may squeeze Kakuta out, even if he’s rumored to be going out on loan. While he didn’t do anything spectacular on Sunday, he showed a versatility that could prove valuable during the course of a season, playing both narrow and very wide in his first half in left midfield, often offering support through the middle.
  • Chelsea’s defense looked susceptible to PSG’s speed, and while the attacking trio of Nene, Lavezzi and Kévin Gameiro is a talented group, most teams in the Premier League can replicate their speed. Gary Cahill, in particular, was too easy to attack. Perhaps that changes when Branislav Ivanovic is to his right (Sam Hutchinson got the start on Sunday).
  • Paris Saint-Germain played very narrow down their left, the movement of Lavezzi leaving a lot of space for Pastore and Sylvain Armand (starting a left back) to get forward. It seemed a perfect scenario for Siake Tiene, the attacking left back who started on the bench; however, after coming on in the second half, the Ivorian defender failed to make a significant impact.
  • Mathieu Bodmer, getting the start at the base of midfield, was tonight’s example of PSG’s insane depth. A solid performer for years in Ligue 1, Bodmer has almost no chance of cracking Ancelotti’s starting XI. Yet tonight, he did a good job breaking up play in the middle of the park, once time jumping up to take the ball off David Luiz, nearly creating a goal scoring chance.
  • Luiz twice went on runs from deep, one time making it all the way to the byline before cutting the ball back, earning a corner. It was one of Chelsea’s brighter moments of the first 45 minutes.
  • Lucas Piazon, however, made sure Chelsea had a better second half, scoring the equalizer from his surprise deployment as a number nine. The 18-year-old is better thought of a somebody who plays withdrawn from the line, be it as a winger, attacking midfielder, or a supporting striker. In the 81st minute, he scored while leading the attack, lunging at a pass from Ramires for Chelsea’s only score.
  • The equalizer came after a late surge spurred on by the heavily partisan, pro-Chelsea crowd. The Blues’ support came to life when John Terry was brought on in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea captain getting a vociferous but mixed reception. It was hard to tell if the cheers outnumbered the boos, but given the make up of the crowd, it seems Chelsea fans are near-split on their captain’s controversial offseason.
  • Overall, Paris Saint-Germain looked like a team that was one week ahead in their preparation, which makes sense given Ligue 1 starts the weekend before the Premier League kicks off. The final score was even, but before a late surge from Chelsea, PSG looked the more dangerous side.