Paris Saint-Germain VS Benfica
UEFA Champions League
Venue: Parc des Princes
Date: 2nd October 2013
Kick-Off: 19:45 (GMT)
Once upon a time Paris Saint-Germain were just in the Champions League to make up the numbers. Never really any realistic ambition to win it, just take each game as it comes and hopefully make the latter stages. Nowadays, we are a completely different entity and as we proved last season with our admirable displays, particularly at the Mestalla and the Camp Nou, we are as good as anyone on our day. But, as we are getting to grips with our second consecutive season in the competition, can we really go further than the quarter-finals and win it? Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes so.
Speaking in yesterday’s pre-match presser, Ibra emphasised that it is one of his dreams to go all the way. It is a title that has eluded him despite playing for so many juggernauts in European football. Settled with life in Paris, as well as signing a new contract, his aim is to help the club reach those dizzy heights on the European stage that we have only ever dreamt of. The experience gained last season has been fundamental in not only the development of the club but also the team. Ibra believes that teams will be more respectful to him and his peers this season after the exploits of the last. “I think Paris Saint-Germain can do it (win the UCL). It is not an easy competition but we are here to win it. Last year, other clubs were asking who we were. This year, they respect us.”
He is certainly right. Many would doubt a team outside of England, Spain, Germany and Italy can go all the way. France, bar Marseille’s triumph in 1993 and Monaco’s unlikely route to the final in 2004, have never had a genuine contender as such. Lyon flirted with the possibility for a couple of seasons from 2005 to 2007 but never went beyond the last-eight.
PSG are a completely different animal in terms of player calibre. There is no denying that the team can do better than last season, as good as that was. The aim was always to win Ligue 1 and whatever was achieved in Europe was a bonus. But, this season is yet another step in the nurturing of the team, the club and the ambition. Is it a realistic target to win it this season? Absolutely. Can it be done? Of course. However, the Parisien project is still young. Domestic titles are the tangible goals – presently – but the way things are growing at the Parc, you can never say never.
After the win at home to Toulouse on Saturday, which has sent us joint-top (after Monaco dropped points also) we come into the game against Benfica in good shape. A lot of personnel was rested on Saturday by Laurent Blanc but he would have been impressed by centre midfielder Adrien Rabiot who put in a real mature performance. Also, Jeremy Menez made his first start after his injury layoff so there were positives to take in a nitty gritty encounter.
Alex is back in the squad after overcoming his thigh troubles but Javier Pastore is out with a similar issue. Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi who both started on the bench at the weekend will most probably come back in to join Ibra as the attacking trio. Blaise Matuidi also took up a rare seat on the bench on Saturday to give him a rest but it is inevitable he will come back into midfield with Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti.
Our visitors tonight registered an opening UCL win like ourselves two weeks back, where they defeated Anderlecht 2-0. They are the difference between us finishing top or not and come into the game unbeaten in their last six in all competitions. But, they are limbering through a patchy start to the domestic season by their standards, sitting 5th and five points behind leaders Porto. Not to mention their coach Jorge Jesus is under investigation for an altercation with police as he tried to protect a fan during a game with Vitoria Guimaraes. So it is not all rosy in the Portuguese garden.