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CHELSEA V PSG

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Three reasons why PSG must beat Chelsea (but might not)

PSG take on Chelsea in the second leg of the Champions leg clash on Wednesday. There’s so much at stake, they just can’t afford to lose. Here are three reasons why.

Three reasons why PSG must beat Chelsea (but might not)
Photo: AFP

Season would be over

If PSG are knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday then that’s basically season over for the French club.

Some will say they can still win the league, but they are effectively in a league of one, this year given the poor level of other teams in Ligue 1, so have basically already won it.  

Some would say they still have the French Cup to play for, but we all know they’re clutching at straws.

Some would say the players can still look forward to the card games on the bus to matches.

From the Qatari owners at the top of the club, to the boss Laurent Blanc and team talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the only competition that matters to them this year is the Champions League.

They’ve been knocked out at the quarter final stage for the last three seasons, including once by Chelsea, but this year, they simply have to go further. They didn’t go and spend €63 million on Angel Di Maria just to be knocked out in the last 16.

In short, their whole season hinges on getting through tonight.

But that makes it hard for a team. To only have three or four big matches a season brings with it its own pressure.

Chelsea, for perhaps the first time in years, will be playing without that same pressure to win, given they are underdogs, have an interim manager and owner Roman Abramovic has already got a European Cup somewhere in his bottomless pocket.

Zlatan’s last season

PSG may lose tonight but at least they can come back next year.

But it will probably be without their star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

This should be Zlatan’s last season with the French club and the big man would dearly love to go out on a high.

He is desperate to be removed from those “greatest players to never win the Champions League” articles that are all over football websites.

PSG have surely got to give him one final shot at the trophy, or at least get him close.

The problem is the big Swede is not known as a big game player and has a tendency to underperform against English clubs. But Zlatan can’t do worse than last year, when he was sent off in the first half.

They probably deserve it

How can you say they deserve it before they’ve even played the game?

Well, let’s take football out of the equation and just accept that PSG and their French coach Laurent Blanc, have been knocking at the Europe’s door for some years now.

The club are desperate to join Europe’s elite and while big oil-rich pockets shouldn’t give them a free pass to the big time, it would be nice to see them get a little further to a semi-final or final, just to see how they get on.

A team full of young talent, a club – the only one in the French capital – that could be enormous in size, and supporters thirsty for success.

Let them have it. Paris could do with a moment of triumph after what it’s been through, so who’d begrudge the city’s team delivering it.

Well Chelsea and their fans for a start. Damn.

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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

PSG confident of Real Madrid scalp despite Neymar’s absence

Paris Saint-Germain remain optimistic that they can record what would be the biggest victory since the Qatari takeover of the club, even with Neymar out injured, when they face Real Madrid on Tuesday. Can they do it?

PSG confident of Real Madrid scalp despite Neymar's absence
AFP

A late collapse saw PSG lose 3-1 in Madrid last month in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. And they come into Tuesday's return without Neymar, as the world's most expensive player recovers in Brazil from a foot operation.

Despite that blow, and the prospect of having to overturn such a deficit against the two-time reigning European champions, PSG are not throwing in the
towel as they bid to reach the quarter-finals.

“I think that we need games like this and to beat these teams to take a step forward and so that our opponents really take notice of PSG, and don't just think we have loads of money,” said Dani Alves, who played in two Champions League final victories for Barcelona and was in the Juventus side beaten by Real in last season's final.

“I said last summer when I was presented here that I wasn't coming just to live in Paris or take the money. I came here because I am a competitor,” added
Alves, speaking to media at the Parc des Princes on the eve of the game.

After Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, PSG had four successive quarter-final defeats in the Champions League before the
humiliation in Barcelona in the last 16 a year ago.

A failure to turn the tie around on Tuesday would mean PSG being eliminated by one of Spain's big two for the fourth time in six seasons.

“PSG have had their limits in this competition in the past and now we need to go beyond them to keep on progressing as a club,” added Alves.

Neymar's absence is an obviously huge blow, but Alves and coach Unai Emery both insisted that Paris have enough quality in their ranks to cope without
him.

“When one player is missing, it opens the door for someone else, and I know that whoever comes in through that door will do so with all their force,” said
Emery.

Angel Di Maria, who won the Champions League with Real in 2014, is likely to be the major beneficiary of Neymar's absence.

The Argentine has been PSG's form player with 13 goals in 14 starts in 2018, although he has played just 67 minutes in the Champions League this
season.

“He is a spectacular player, who made history with Real Madrid. He can play in any position across the middle, he moves well, has a good shot, and is quick,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

No margin for error

Di Maria has a point to prove, as does Emery, who took charge of his 100th PSG game at the weekend.

His contract expires in June and there is surely no prospect of a renewal in the event of a defeat, even with PSG on course for a domestic clean sweep.

The pressure is also on Zidane, albeit less so after the manner of their first-leg victory.

Cristiano Ronaldo, whose brace in the first leg took him past 100 Champions League goals for Real, is in form again and the Spanish giants have not been knocked out at this stage of the competition since 2010.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday), after the game, it's going to be difficult for one of the two teams, but that is football,” said Zidane.

Fifteen points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona and out of the Copa del Rey, Real are throwing everything into their quest to win a third consecutive Champions League.

“That can mean added pressure or added motivation,” said captain Sergio Ramos. “We are focusing everything on the Champions League and the margin for error is minimal.”

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric trained on the Parc des Princes pitch on Monday evening and could play after spells on the sidelines with respective knee and thigh problems.

Javier Pastore, who had been a slight doubt with a calf problem, was named in the PSG squad.