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Wednesday 18 October 2017

Zlatan: I'm not out for Blues revenge

PSG striker says last year's red card at Stamford Bridge 'in the past'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Paris St Germain talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic has warned Chelsea he is better than ever ahead of a return to Stamford Bridge, but denied being eager for "revenge".

The 34-year-old Sweden striker was sent off in the first half of last season's second leg between the clubs, which saw PSG progress to the quarter-finals on away goals.

Ibrahimovic afterwards called Chelsea players "babies" for their role in his dismissal, believing Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers had been hounded into the decision for a challenge on Oscar which was more clumsy than malicious.

"From the last game here I never saw something like that before from mature players like that," Ibrahimovic said.

"It's a new game, let's play different. I never think about revenge and these things.

"Hopefully I will stay on the pitch longer than the last time to have a possibility to do things I'm good at. (But) revenge, absolutely not. What happened in the past happened in the past."

Ibrahimovic, who has scored 23 goals in 23 Ligue 1 games this season, has been linked with a move to the Premier League when his PSG contract expires at the end of the season.

The striker, who in November 2012 scored four goals for Sweden against England, was asked about his relationship with English football and his future.

He said: "After my four goals my relation became perfect. Before there was no relation.

"My future is I have another two months with PSG, then I have the Euros (with Sweden). Whatever happens after that - there is nothing after that.

"I am not in discussion with nobody because for me it's not the time. I'm not worried about the future, because for me the future looks good after the season I'm doing. People say I'm old. I'm only warming up.

"I don't believe it's the end of my career. Age is just a number and I feel young, I feel very young. I never had better statistics than this."

In a distinguished career which has taken him to Ajax, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Barcelona, Ibrahimovic has yet to win the Champions League.

He added: "It was almost an obsession, then I started to mature and get to know myself.

"I have the possibility this year. If I can win it of course I will be very happy. I had luck to win a lot of trophies with a lot of fantastic clubs.

"I will do my best to win it, but it will not change the player I am."

PSG have reached the quarter-finals in the last four seasons. They lost to Chelsea in the last eight two years ago and were beaten by Barcelona last term.

Ibrahimovic says PSG's Qatari owners will not rest in their quest to win the Champions League, whether the Swede is in the team or not.

"What we have done in three-and-a-half years I believe is amazing stuff," Ibrahimovic added.

"They brought a lot of players and put them together in so short time. Why we haven't advanced? This comes with experience. These miracles we don't do in 24 hours.

"With time these things will come. There is no limits. The Qataris will hunt the Champions League with no limits. With me or without me."

Meanwhile, Chelsea interim boss Guus Hiddink has defended Diego Costa's behaviour and scoring record ahead of tonight's clash.

PSG's social media team upped the ante on the eve of the tie with a video montage of masked super heroes titled 'Spot the fraud', which also included Costa, who has been playing with a protective mask due to a broken nose.

Costa, available after missing last Saturday's draw with Stoke as a precaution over a minor tendon problem, has a reputation for riling opponents. He has never been sent off for Chelsea, although he has served two retrospective three-match domestic bans in his two seasons in London.

"I'm very proud of him the way he's playing and, going not over the edge, but he likes to fight in the real way of the game," Hiddink said. "That's what we like."

Hiddink, who is without captain John Terry due to a hamstring injury, also issued a robust defence of Eden Hazard.

The Belgium playmaker, Chelsea's leading performer in last season's Premier League and League Cup double, has been underwhelming this term.

Hiddink added: "He can and must show tomorrow what he is capable of, which is more than the away game."

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