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PSG hope for miracle against Barcelona

French champions Paris Saint-Germain need something akin to a miracle to overcome Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday night. PSG coach Laurent Blanc is not optimistic.

PSG hope for miracle against Barcelona
PSG players listen to coach Laurent Blanc before Tuesday's match against Barcelona. Photo: AFP

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc admitted he is realistic about the size of the task facing his side as they attempt to overturn a 3-1 Champions League quarter-final, first leg deficit away at Barcelona on Tuesday.

The French champions were torn apart by Barca's star front three of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi at the Parc des Princes last week, just as they were when they last visited the Camp Nou in the group stages in December.

And while Blanc is confident PSG can pose the Barca defence problems, he believes stopping the South American trio is an almost impossible task.

"I'm fairly realistic. Yes we believe we can do it, but like you, we know that it is extremely difficult," he said on Monday.

"We can say that we have nothing to lose. I think we will have the opportunity to score, but the big problem is that we can't concede and against Barcelona that is almost impossible.

"We must defend well, we say that every time we play them, but we have conceded in every game because they have incredible offensive players.

"I hope we can show we are better than what we showed in the first leg."

The visitors will at least be boosted by the return of their own top scorer as former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic returns from suspension.

"He will have a big impact. He is a player I have never doubted," added Blanc.

"He loves these type of matches, so he will help us. It is always better to have very good players and goalscorers, as we saw in the first leg."

Marco Verratti also returns from a ban to take his place in midfield, but Thiago Silva and Thiago Motta both miss out due to injury.

And midfielder Javier Pastore is hoping Ibrahimovic and Verratti's presence can prove the difference from one week to the next.

"It will be a very difficult game, but the only good thing is that we don't have anything to lose. We come into the game with a negative result, but we have added two fundamental players to the team and they will give us a lot.

"We believe because that is our job and football is a game in which you have the possibility to win or lose. For our fans and ourselves we need to play very well and win the game."

However, the Argentine international dismissed French legend Eric Cantona's recent comments that he and not his compatriot Messi, who scored his 400th Barcelona goal at the weekend, is the best player in the world.

"Everyone has their opinion and I thank him publicly for what he said, but I don't believe the same.

"I think he likes good football and not just goals, but the stats of Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo are incredible, unattainable numbers."

Barcelona striker Luis Suarez insists his side can't relax when they host Paris Saint-Germain in the second-leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday despite holding a commanding 3-1 lead in the tie.

Suarez was the orchestrator of the French champions' downfall in the first-leg at the Parc des Princes with two sensational individual goals to put Barca on the brink of a seventh semi-final in eight seasons.

However, the Uruguayan demanded the same level of intensity and concentration from his side to ensure PSG are given no encouragement at the Camp Nou.

"Nothing is done. We are aware that they have great players and we need to start with the same intensity that we did last week," he said on Monday.

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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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