Apr 15, 2015

    PSG 'peaking' even without key players


    PARIS St Germain (PSG) will look to overcome the absence of key players, including striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, in today's Champions League quarter-final first leg against Barcelona.

    PSG are buoyant after strong domestic performances last week, having beaten bitter Ligue 1 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 without suspended Swede Ibrahimovic, 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 (the latter stages), we're good," said coach Laurent Blanc.

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

    The two teams have had regular meetings 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 reached the 2013 semi-finals 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," said Ludovic Giuly, who formerly played for Barca and PSG as a winger. "There is a lot more at stake and in football, no game is ever the same."

    Barca's 2-2 draw at Sevilla in La Liga on Saturday, when they threw away a 2-0 lead, prompted renewed concerns over their defensive frailty, with both goals conceded due to mistakes.

    Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made an uncharacteristic handling error to let in Ever Banega's long-range strike before half-time, 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 Barca remain on course to repeat their unprecedented 2009 treble of Champions League and Spanish league and Cup.

    Barca's Brazil right-back Dani Alves is suspended for today's game, with Adriano or Martin Montoya likely to replace him in the starting line-up.

    Pique, however, is unfazed as Barca can 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.

    The second leg will be played at the Nou Camp on Tuesday.