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PSG v Chelsea: Hopes lie with Ibrahimovic

The Local/AFP · 2 Apr 2014, 18:57

Published: 02 Apr 2014 18:57 GMT+02:00

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"Zlatan we are counting on you," was the headline in Le Parisien newspaper on Wednesday morning ahead of PSG's Champions League quarter final clash with English Premier League side Chelsea.

The daily, which does not try to hide its backing for the French capital's team, knows that if PSG are to stand any chance of beating Jose Mourinho's Chelsea then their Swedish international striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will have to be at his best.

Ibrahimovic should be fired up by the perception that he is not highly regarded in England. The striker his back this week saying he doesn't need to prove his quality in the Premier League. He does however have the chance  to prove himself on Wednesday against a Premier League team, which should have Ibrahimovic fired up.

At the age of 32, the Swede seems to have belatedly reached his prime, with his tally of 40 goals in all competitions this season breaking the PSG club record. But his record against English clubs is fairly poor with only threee goals in 15 encounters.

He will want to put that right when he comes up against the likes of Chelsea stalwarts John Terry, Frank Lampard and co.

A poll in the Le Parisien suggests PSG fans are optimistic Zlatan as they call him will score against Chelsea with 89 percent believing he will find the net.

PSG, who boast other world class players such as Uruguayan Edinson Cavani and Brazilian Thiago Silva are aiming to win their first ever Champions League title and dream of being in the final in Lisbon on May 24th.

But first they must overcome a Chelsea-side who won the trophy themselves only two years ago.

The meeting of PSG and Chelsea looks like the most evenly balanced of all the quarter-final ties but, while Ibrahimovic acknowledges that Paris represents his last chance to win the greatest prize in European football, he insists that José Mourinho's side must be considered the 'super favourites' to advance to the last four.

"I think that the biggest possibility to win it is with Paris because this is my last contract in Europe," he said with a nod to a decade of disappointments at this level.

"This year we are in the quarter-finals against a fantastic team. We have nothing to lose. I think we did a fantastic season so far and every game we win from now on is a bonus for us.

"It is a project (that has been) going on for two years and we are beginners in everything we do. Chelsea has a project going on for 10 years. They've already won the Champions League, the Europa League, they have a great coach.

"I think all of the teams in the last eight are strong but Chelsea are the super favourites."

The Swede also insisted that PSG are a better side now than 12 months ago, when they were eliminated on away goals by Barcelona under Carlo Ancelotti.

But under the Italian's successor Laurent Blanc, PSG are 13 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and on course to win the League Cup while also hoping to reach the last four in the Champions League for the first time in 19 years.

Blanc has brought the best of his side with a 4-3-3 formation and a possession-based game and he confirmed that they will not change their way of playing just to counteract Chelsea's counterattacking approach.

"We have analysed Chelsea and prepared this match as we normally do. I suppose Chelsea will have prepared like us," he said.

"We have contrasting styles. But which is the most efficient? We will see over the two legs, but I think that both teams will maintain their philosophy in both games.

"If we start to worry about Chelsea on the break and change our approach, our own game will become less natural and our collective performance will not be at the level we want it to be.

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"We know how Chelsea like to play and we know they will create chances on the break, so we will pay attention to that, but putting everyone behind the ball is not our style."

There are similarities between the two clubs, both of whom are bankrolled by mega rich owners who have invested heavily in the team in a bid to join European football's elite.

Just as Chelsea were transformed after being taken over by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich a decade ago, the arrival of Qatar Sports Investments has made PSG capable of competing with Europe's very best, and the squad stand to earn a bonus of 1 million euros (£826,000, $1.38m) per man if they win the trophy.

Silva will sport a mask to protect a fractured cheekbone but Gregory van der Wiel is unlikely to play due to a nagging knee problem so Christoph.

Jallet is set to play at right-back. For Chelsea, Mourinho has said he expects Samuel Eto'o to miss the game because of a hamstring injury and Nemanja Matic is ineligible.

Tickets for the sell-out match atthe Parc des Princes have reportedly been selling for up to ten times face value on the internet, with prices of up to €2,500 quoted by some news sites.

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

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