Tuesday 23 January 2018

Laurent Blanc: Momentum is the key to beating Barcelona

Paris St Germain's head coach Laurent Blanc
Paris St Germain's head coach Laurent Blanc

Buoyant after their strong domestic performance last week, Paris St Germain will look to overcome the absence of key players including striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in tonight’s Champions League quarter-final first leg against Barcelona.

PSG beat Ligue 1 bitter rivals Olympique de Marseille 3-2, thrashed St Etienne 4-1 in the French Cup semi-finals, and won the League Cup final 4-0 against Bastia on Saturday.

Even if they will be without the suspended Ibrahimovic and Marco Verratti and the injured David Luiz, PSG believe they are peaking.

“Do I feel a new momentum? It’s been the case for a while. We worked physically (during the winter break) and today, in money time, we’re good,” said coach Laurent Blanc.

“We are gaining momentum while last year at the same time we were on the way down.”

Both teams have been meeting regularly recently in the Champions League, with PSG beating Barca 3-2 at home in a Group F game this season before losing 3-1 at the Nou Camp.

Barca had reached the semi-finals in 2013 by eliminating PSG on away goals, drawing 1-1 at home after a 2-2 stalemate in Paris.

“The quarter-final tie is going to be very different from the group stage. There is a lot more at stake and in football no game is ever the same,” former Barca and PSG winger Ludovic Giuly said.

Barca’s 2-2 draw at Sevilla in La Liga on Saturday, when they threw away a 2-0 lead, prompted renewed concerns about their defensive frailty, with both the concedded goals down to mistakes from the Barca rearguard.

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made an uncharacteristic handling error to let in Ever Banega’s long-range strike before halftime and centre back Gerard Pique’s loss of possession in midfield led to the Andalusian club’s late equaliser.

The stalemate in Sevilla meant Barca’s lead over second-placed Real Madrid at the top of La Liga was cut to two points but they remain on course to repeat the 2009 historic treble of Champions League and Spanish league and Cup.

Barca’s Brazil right back Dani Alves is suspended for tonight’s game, with Adriano or Martin Montoya likely to replace him in the starting lineup.

Pique, however, is unfazed as Barca would once again bank on their formidable attacking trio.

“I’ve never before seen a relationship like the one between Luis (Suarez), Ney (Neymar) and Leo (Messi). We’re talking about three of the best players in the world,” he said.

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