WFC: Chelsea's Di Matteo takes notice of PSG player spree
NEW YORK — Defending their first-ever UEFA Champions League title just got that much tougher for Chelsea this summer.
As his team prepares to face free-spending French giants Paris Saint-Germain on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer and Univision Deportes), Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo knows that the match could very well be a preview of what's to come.
"Certainly we have to take notice of what PSG is doing," said Di Matteo at a Saturday press conference asked about PSG's summer spending spree that landed them the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. "They're going to be involved in the Champions League and they could be an opponent to us. And they have signed some of the best players around the world.
WATCH: Eden Hazard's goal vs. Seattle
"So you do take notice," he continued, "and I think it’s going to enhance the competition in the Champions League and it’s going to make the French league more interesting by acquiring all these players."
While some of PSG's new signings have yet to debut — Ibrahimovic will be joining the team in DC, while Thiago Silva is away with the Brazil Olympic side — Di Matteo's offseason acquisition of former Lille star Eden Hazard already looks to be a good fit.
The Belgian Hazard was one of the standout players in Chelsea's 4-2 victory over the Seattle Sounders in the WFC opener back on July 18. Now he's looking forward to reacquainting himself with a club he knows well from his days in Ligue 1.
"It’s always a good experience playing against a team that you already know," Hazard said about PSG. "I know a lot of players on that team. I have friends on that team. I’ve always played pretty well against this team, so I’m looking forward to it."
"They’ve always had some pretty good players, but slowly bringing more players with more quality will allow them to progress," continued Hazard. "I think us [Chelsea] and Manchester City did the same thing a couple of years ago and it’s worked out well for them."
While PSG are the novelty when it comes to Europe's class of super clubs, Chelsea and Di Matteo are focused on staying there. During Saturday's WFC pregame press conference, the Swiss-Italian coach listed the European Super Cup, the FIFA Club World Cup and "trying to compete with the two Manchester teams" in the EPL as the club's key objectives heading into the upcoming season.
Sunday's match, the first ever soccer event at the new Yankee Stadium, against one of the world's rising soccer powers in PSG is a step in that direction.
"When you play teams like PSG or AC Milan [on July 28 in Miami] I think it is a preseason friendly, but it’s a little bit more than that," said Di Matteo, "because there's some prestige in the game as well and obviously in the intensity and tempo of the game will probably be higher than our first game."