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PSG’s Blanc: ‘We do our job for nights like this’

French champions Paris Saint-Germain earned a historic victory against Spanish giants Barcelona in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Here's all the reaction from PSG's delighted coach Laurent Blanc and his counterpart at Barca Luis Enrique.

PSG's Blanc: 'We do our job for nights like this'
PSG's Blaise Matuidi leads the celebrates after his team's famous victory over Barcelona on Tuesday night. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique refused to point the finger at his defence after the Catalans went down 3-2 to Paris Saint-Germain in Champions League Group F on Tuesday.

"I don't like to evaluate individual performances when we lose a game. We are all responsible, above all me," he said after suffering his first defeat since being appointed in the summer.

"We will analyse in depth what we did wrong to try and ensure these things don't happen again."

Barca had received praise after going unbeaten through their opening seven matches this season, keeping seven clean sheets in the process.

However, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen selected in goal rather than Claudio Bravo and with Gerard Pique left on the bench, Barca's defence was made to look ordinary.

David Luiz put the French champions ahead in the 10th minute, breaching the visitors' defence for the first time this season after 640 minutes, and PSG's smallest player Marco Verratti was allowed to head in a corner to make it 2-1 after Lionel Messi had equalised with his 68th Champions League goal.

Blaise Matuidi added a third, and while Neymar pulled another one back, Barcelona could not equalise and slumped to a fifth loss in nine Champions League away games.

"We committed very clear errors in bringing the ball out from the back," added Enrique. "From set-pieces they are very strong, and when you are behind it requires an awful lot of effort to try and get back into the game."

However, he said his side were perhaps unfortunate not to come away with a draw after putting their hosts under constant pressure in the closing stages.

"We already knew their potential. They are candidates to win the Champions League; they won their league last season.

"We were up against a rival of the same level as us and the difficulties we had were normal in such a game, but in the last 25 minutes we could have equalised.

"In the end I think we could have drawn and it would have been a fair result."

Barcelona were unable to build on their opening Group F win against APOEL two weeks ago, although a 1-1 draw between the Cypriots and Ajax in the night's other game did little to help these sides' prospects of progressing to the last 16.

Win relieves pressure on Blanc

Meanwhile, it was a night of great satisfaction for Paris coach Laurent Blanc, who had been under growing pressure following his team's sluggish start to the season, even if they have yet to lose a match.

The Ligue 1 club drew 1-1 at Ajax a fortnight ago and came into this encounter without injured talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as Ezequiel Lavezzi and Thiago Silva.

Despite that, they went one better than in April 2013, when a 2-2 draw against the same opponents led to them being eliminated from the competition in the quarter-finals.

"I am very satisfied. I think for those who like Paris Saint-Germain and French football it was a good evening," said Blanc, whose side are five points behind leaders Marseille in Ligue 1 yet harbour ambitions of going all the way in the Champions League.

"I will remember this win, as will the players and all those who were at the stadium. We do this job to live nights like these."

"I don't deny that our start to the season has been a bit more complicated than we wished, but tonight, the smell, the Champions League, Barcelona, subconsciously you are more determined.

"On nights like tonight you either rediscover your team or find yourself at the bottom of a hole."

Blanc, who was a team-mate of Luis Enrique at the Camp Nou for a season in the 1990s, added: "They hadn't conceded a goal yet. With the staff we have watched a lot of their matches and we realised that in all of them their opponents had chances to score goals.

"I played at Barcelona and I know that as a defender they take lots of risks. We had an inferior amount of the ball, which is rare, but despite that we created chances and scored three.

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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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