PARIS • Guus Hiddink admitted on Tuesday that he is envious of Paris Saint-Germain's strength in depth, after Chelsea lost 1-2 in the first leg of their Champions League round-of-16 tie at the Parc des Princes.
Edinson Cavani came off the substitutes' bench to score the crucial goal with 12 minutes remaining, after John Obi Mikel had responded to Zlatan Ibrahimovic's opener, condemning Chelsea to their first defeat of Hiddink's second spell at the club.
It was the Uruguay striker's third goal against Chelsea in seven games, during which he has also made two assists.
NO KILLER INSTINCT BUT NO DRAMA
We were not killing them in the four or five counters we had. But, only losing 1-2, we're still in the race. It's not a dramatic loss.
GUUS HIDDINK, Chelsea's interim manager, is still optimistic about going through to the next round of the Champions League.
Hiddink insisted that Chelsea are "still in the race" to reach the quarter-finals, particularly after scoring an away goal that he will hope can prove decisive in the second leg on March 9, but his overriding feeling after a defensive display by the visiting team was envy at PSG's greater resources.
Cavani is the French club's record signing, having arrived in a £55 million move from Napoli three years ago. Yet he had to be content with a place on the bench, as did Javier Pastore, their £32 million signing.
PSG manager Laurent Blanc could even fling on Pastore and Adrien Rabiot before the end and with Angel di Maria and Lucas Moura outstanding, the runaway Ligue One leaders will travel to Stamford Bridge with confidence.
In contrast, Chelsea's bench was largely made up of youngsters, such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Bertrand Traore and Kenedy, with their resources stretched by injuries to Kurt Zouma and John Terry, who is unlikely to have recovered from his hamstring injury in time to face Manchester City in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.
Hiddink hopes he will have Terry available for the return leg, when Eden Hazard and Oscar should have regained more match fitness.
"We have some weeks to prepare for this and I hope everyone is on board for the second leg," Hiddink said. "I envy the bench of PSG. They have a very strong squad of 15 or 16 international players, which is very good.
"If you see what this team can bring on in the second half, world-class players as substitutes, then we did very well. This is a very strong PSG side, a very well-built team given their total squad. So the performance of our players was technically very good.
PSG's Qatari owners have actually spent marginally less on transfers over the first five years of their stewardship than Roman Abramovich did in the corresponding initial spell at Chelsea, but the sense that the home side had greater depth was inescapable.
Hiddink was left to bemoan a lack of killer instinct on the counter-attack which has left his team playing catch-up in the tie.
"We were not killing them in the four or five counters we had," he said. "We had to be more lethal. But, only losing 1-2, we're still in the race. It's not a dramatic loss."
Laurent Blanc, the PSG coach, was nonetheless relieved to escape with the narrow advantage. "It was a great game," he said. "A Chelsea team that people said were in difficulty showed that they are getting their colour back, as well as the discipline that allows them to defend well and break with incredible pace."
THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN