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Monday 26 September 2016

'City a bit behind us in Europe'

Blanc reveals 'relief' at drawing City while Pellegrini rules Toure out with 'keeper Hart fit to play

Paris St Germain’s coach Laurent Blanc (right) with Edinson Cavani and Thiago Motta at a training session on the eve of their UEFA Champions League clash against Manchester City.
Paris St Germain’s coach Laurent Blanc (right) with Edinson Cavani and Thiago Motta at a training session on the eve of their UEFA Champions League clash against Manchester City.
Manchester City’s players including midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (centre) take part in a team training session ahead of tonight’s Champions League clash with Paris St Germain.
Angel Di Maria during training

Laurent Blanc believes Paris St Germain are more advanced than Manchester City in Champions League terms - but has rubbished suggestions his side's quarter-final is straightforward.

PSG are appearing in the last eight of the competition for the fourth successive year as they prepare to host quarter-final first timers City at the Parc des Princes tonight.

The two clubs have drawn many comparisons having been funded lavishly by Middle Eastern investors in recent years.

But while French champions PSG have been accused of having things easy in a relatively weak Ligue 1, Blanc believes the extra intensity of the Premier League may have held City back.

Blanc said: "Manchester City had the same project a bit before Paris St Germain. They managed to win their domestic league, which is not an easy task and some other titles, but maybe in Europe maybe they're a bit behind us.

Bored

"Maybe this shows what Paris St Germain have achieved is not as easy as it looks.

"But I'm a bit bored of these questions. Even the French media are asking is Ligue 1 as strong in terms of intensity.

"Maybe there's a case but it's not all about intensity. Maybe England is more competitive but I don't see many English teams in the semi-finals of the European competitions over the last five or six years.

"Maybe they have reached a further level in terms of fatigue. You need to find a right balance. There are problems in every domestic league."

PSG have already wrapped up their domestic title, having secured the Ligue 1 crown for a fourth successive year with nine games to spare.

Their form on the home front contrasts with that of City, who have endured an inconsistent campaign and fallen off the pace in the Premier League title race. They are now even facing a battle to hang onto a place in the top four.

But Blanc, whose side beat Chelsea in the last round, said: "When we drew Manchester City we were quite happy to avoid the two 'ogres' of European football that are Bayern Munich and Barcelona. We may add a third one in Real Madrid. "But I have the impression the media and the supporters of Paris St Germain think this is an easy draw. Let's not get into that."

Meanwhile, City midfielder Yaya Toure - amid comments from his agent that he will leave the club in the summer - will miss tonight's clash with a knee injury but keeper Joe Hart is fit to play. "Yaya has a problem with his knee so he is not able to play," Pellegrini told a news conference at the Parc des Princes.

Toure has been struggling with his knee for the past month and missed Saturday's 4-0 Premier League win at Bournemouth. Hart picked up a calf injury in last month's 1-0 defeat at home to Manchester United but is back to full fitness after training with the team yesterday.

"Hart has worked without any problem in the last day," the Chilean said. "He has had medical and physical tests and has no problems to play."

City will be playing in their first Champions League quarter-final, while it is French champions' PSG's fourth consecutive appearance at that stage of the competition.

"They (PSG) are ahead of us but every team evolve in their own way," City defender Eliaquim Mangala said.

"I respect PSG, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic), (Edinson) Cavani, (Angel Di Maria), but I'm not scared. Both teams have a chance to continue to the next stage - the chances are 50 percent for each team," Pellegrini said.

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