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Great expectations: PSG kick off Euro campaign

AFP/The Local · 17 Sep 2013, 09:02

Published: 17 Sep 2013 09:02 GMT+02:00

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After guiding Paris Saint-Germain to an unbeaten five-match start to their domestic season, coach Laurent Blanc gets a second crack at a Champions League campaign in which significent success is expected.

Carlo Ancelotti guided the capital side on a strong run to the quarter-finals last season where they narrowly lost to Barcelona on away goals and the club's wealthy Qatari owners will be expecting at least the same this campaign if not better.

After three wins and two draws in five league outings, PSG travel to Athens for the opening round of group matches on Tuesday where they face a stiff challenge against Greek champions Olympiakos.

A good result in the capital will put them in good stead amongst a pool that also includes Europa League finalists Benfica and Belgian champions Anderlecht.

Blanc knows what it takes to succeed in football's biggest club competition having taken Bordeaux to the 2010 quarter-finals where they were knocked out by domestic rivals Lyon.

His team came out on top at Bordeaux 2-0 in their last league outing and club owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi is optimistic about their continental quest.

"This was our best match since the start of the season and I hope it will continue," he said following the Friday win at the Chaban Delmas stadium.

"On Tuesday we start the Champions League which is a very important competition for Paris. It is going to be tough, but we have a team capable of winning all our upcoming matches."

While PSG come into the match as slight favourites, the Greeks cannot be underestimated and have a fine record at their Karaiskakis stadium, a venue that played a role in the first ever Olympic Games in 1896.

Their Spanish coach Michel, who scored 97 goals during 14 seasons at Real Madrid, is looking to take the team past their best run of reaching the quarter-finals, which they achieved once, back in 1999.

A perfect start of three wins in three matches with eight goals scored and just one conceded in league action sets them up nicely, although the 50-year-old former midfielder says he is spoilt for choice with many of his players on top form.

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"For sure it is a pleasant headache. The truth is we are in very good condition at this time.

"We needed a boost so that we can seriously tackle the match with Paris Saint-Germain and we got this push at the right time," he said after their 4-0 thrashing of Xanthi at the weekend."

PSG will miss the presence of Brazilian centre-back Alex who is ruled out with a thigh strain while Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani who only played 10 minutes against Bordeaux is another doubt.

Argentine playmaker Javier Pastore has a foot problem but should make the trip and Jeremy Menez is trying to shake off a troublesome kidney although Blanc shouldn't be concerned with plenty of resources stocked within his expensively assembled squad.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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