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PSG set for quarters after routing Leverkusen 4-0

French champions PSG have one foot, perhaps even two, in the next round of the Champions League after they hammered Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in Germany on Tuesday. The win left coach Laurent Blanc a happy man.

PSG set for quarters after routing Leverkusen 4-0
PSG's Ibrahimovic celebrates after scoring against Bayer Leverkusen. The French team have one foot, perhaps even two, in the quarter finals after 4-0 win. Photo: Patrick Stollarz/AFP

Four-time winners Barcelona and French champions Paris Saint-Germain took huge strides towards the Champions League last eight on Tuesday as they both won away from home in their last-16, first-leg ties.

Barcelona prevailed 2-0 over English side Manchester City but scoring both their goals, a penalty by Lionel Messi and a late goal by Dani Alves, only after Argentinian defender Martin Demichelis was sent off eight minutes into the second half.

PSG, who were eliminated by Barcelona in the quarter-finals last season, thumped German outfit Bayer Leverkusen 4-0 in Germany but, unlike Barcelona, took the match by the scruff of the neck early on and led 3-0 at half-time with Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring two of them.

PSG untroubled in Germany 

While that match remained tight until the end, the other game was over as a contest by half-time as PSG overwhelmed a side that lost 10-2 on aggregate to Barcelona the last time they appeared in this stage of the competition two years ago.

Blaise Matuidi scored the opener and Ibrahimovic the other two, the second of those a scorching effort from outside the box.

The hosts' chances of at least getting a goal back decreased markedly when Bosnian international defender Emir Spahic – who had been responsible for conceding the penalty that Ibrahimovic scored for his first goal – was sent off for a second bookable offence.

PSG grabbed a fourth late in the game through recent signing Yohan Cabaye.

"We had a good start and when you are one goal up, it's easier, it gives you space," said Ibrahimovic.

"We had a good first half and continued to play our game after the break, when they played with one less, so it was a good day."

PSG coach Laurent Blanc, who is bidding to bring France only their second ever win in the competition with Marseille having won it in 1993, was delighted with the performance.

"I think we rediscovered the PSG of the first part of the season," said the former France national coach.

"They were hungry to build moves and to be clinical, things that we slightly lost our way in.

"Here we were all those things while maintaining our philosophy of how to play.

"We will savour this then get ourselves ready for the second leg in Paris in three weeks, which we have to win."

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FOOTBALL

OPINION: Mbappé’s title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project

After being the star of France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappé has been the standout player for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 title-winning campaign that has been slightly marred by the manner in which they limped over the line.

OPINION: Mbappé's title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project
Photos AFP

PSG finally wrapped up the title on Sunday after second-placed Lille failed to beat Toulouse, having not won any of their previous three games when the opportunity to confirm a sixth French crown in seven seasons was there.

The Qatari-owned club can still make it a domestic double, with the French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, yet this will not be remembered as a vintage year.

While Neymar once again went missing due to injury at the crucial point, Edinson Cavani has struggled with fitness too, and coach Thomas Tuchel has regularly lashed out at the lack of depth in his squad.

The 5-1 capitulation at Lille a week ago was the worst league result for PSG since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, and the first time they had let in five in a league game since 2000.

A record-breaking 14-match winning run with which they started the season now seems like a long time ago, the latest Champions League failure clouding Tuchel's first campaign in charge.

Mbappé, at least, has been a constant, revelling in his status as a World Cup winner and hardly ever being rested. He only turned 20 in December, but has now won three Ligue 1 titles in a row.

Mbappé has 36 goals in 40 games this season, with 30 in the league. And, frighteningly, his team-mate Daniel Alves told RMC recently that “he doesn't realise how good he is, he can go much further”.

He is also not used to losing, and may have upset some of his teammates with his assessment of last week's defeat at Lille. “We played like beginners,” he said.

Hollow ring

To be fair, they have usually been exceptional domestically. However, the problem is that as long as they keep failing in the Champions League, domestic success for a club backed by a Gulf state will continue to ring hollow.

The title has effectively been in the bag for some time, but their season has been winding down ever since their exit against Manchester United in the last 16.

That, combined with being knocked out in the League Cup quarter-finals, means Tuchel in his first season has actually done worse than Unai Emery, his unloved predecessor.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has actually done worse than his predecessor, Unai Emery
However, according to sports daily L'Equipe, Tuchel has agreed to extend his contract to 2021. Thoughts have already turned to the future, with new signings needed at the Parc des Princes.

The costly Neymar experiment cannot be said to have succeeded until he stays fit for the games that matter, and there will always be speculation about his future.

“We have a contract, we're not even halfway through that contract,” Neymar's father pointed out to RMC Sport.

Time for a clear-out? 

Mbappé is the one man they really cannot afford to lose, but is it time for a clear-out elsewhere?

Some of the excitement of the early part of the decade has gone, replaced with a staleness. The days of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti are maybe ending.

Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner for France and a PSG star in the 1990s, offers a frank assessment, suggesting real change is needed higher up.

“If you're not great in every compartment, from the bus driver to the girls who clean the shirts, you will go nowhere,” he told Ligue 1 Podcast, 'Le Beau Jeu'.

“Paris Saint-Germain, after many years without success, have to rebuild everything, restart from scratch, because the foundations are not good. You cannot expect to one day win the Champions League without these foundations.”

The Qatar project needs a breath of fresh air, and all eyes will be on president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules remain a problem, though, with PSG said to have a hole of around 100 million euros and the need to present a balanced budget by the end of June. The next few months will be interesting.

By Andy Scott/AFP

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