Atletico Madrid has a strong case for the standout performance in the Champions League this week after their valiant 1-0 victory at the San Siro against the might of Milan. Sure, the team is a shadow of what it used to be but for the Spaniards to go there and humble the seven time winners of the European Cup takes some doing. But, for the way we dismembered Bayer Leverkusen on Tuesday night and ultimately booked our place in the last-eight within 40 minutes of the first-leg, gives us the bragging rights in my opinion. Laurent Blanc – who was bursting with pride – summed it by simply saying; “We witnessed a great team”.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic propelled himself to the top of the goal-scoring charts in the competition with 10 goals as well as putting the club joint-first with Real Madrid as the highest goal-scorers with 20. We were up against a very poor Leverkusen team whose confidence was shot to pieces but it should not deter the team’s effort in the BayArena. If people in Europe were not taking PSG seriously in this competition before, they are now. That result was a statement of intent, there is no doubt about it.
The positivity from that night on Tuesday has got even greater after the club confirmed yesterday that Thiago Motta has finally put pen to paper on a contract extension that will run to the summer of 2016. For me, as I have said countless times in the last few weeks, Motta has been Paris’ player of the season. Sure, the goals from Ibra and Edinson Cavani have put us where we are, but our midfield is as good as any in Europe at the moment and Motta is a huge reason for that. The Brazilian born Italian international told the club’s Official Site; “I am very happy to continue following my dreams with Paris Saint-Germain. I want to help the club reach their ambitious goals, both in France and in Europe”.
He was outstanding in the week as per usual. As was Marco Verratti who I believe was man of the match against the Germans. Bayer could not cope with our ball retention and they were running on empty for large parts of the second-half.
It is a result that gives us a huge sense of pride heading into the game with Toulouse tomorrow afternoon. Stade de Reims were moments away from doing us a huge favour last night against Monaco but conceded a 95th minute winner via Layvin Kurzawa to cut our lead at the top to just two points.
TFC are rooted in mid-table at the moment. They are not going to be embroiled in any trouble near the bottom, nor are they going to present a challenge for the European spots. Their form has been patchy since the turn of the year, just two wins in six. They were also humbled in the Coupe de France by CFA side Moulins which was a big disappointment to them. There was an opportunity there to go on a possible run in the cup but yet again it was not to be for Les Pitchouns.
Alain Casanova will be hoping his players put on a better show than they did last season at the Municipal. Les Parisiens hammered them 4-0 with Gregory Van der Wiel netting his first (and only) goal for the club. It was the turning point in the Dutchman’s career in Ligue 1. Incidentally, Sylvain Armand and Mamadou Sakho were our centre-back pairing on that night which makes it seem such a long time ago.
Young strike pairing Martin Braithwate and Wissam Ben Yedder (15 goals between them) will be the focal point for the hosts going forward. But, we may come across one of our own in Clement Chantome who could return after his suspension. A knee injury has stuttered his time at the club of late but he will need no invitation in terms of giving his all tomorrow if called upon.
The players have had plenty of time to recuperate, not that they needed to. They were in cruise control against Bayer so should have plenty in reserve to win a third consecutive game.