PSG faces biggest test against Barça

PSG faces biggest test against Barça

PARIS - Reuters
PSG faces biggest test against Barça

Paris Saint Germain, under experienced coach Carlo Ancelotti, hopes recent signing David Beckham will help the club reach the final in the Champions League.

Qatari-backed Paris Saint Germain’s mission to be considered one of Europe’s top clubs faces its toughest test yet when it hosts Barcelona in an intriguing Champions League quarterfinal first leg tomorrow night.

Barcelona, having recovered from a first-leg stumble in its last-16 tie against AC Milan to qualify 4-2 on aggregate, is widely considered favorite to win the trophy for the fourth time in eight seasons at Wembley in May.

PSG, which saw off Valencia in the last 16, believes however that this could be a turning point in the club’s climb to the peak of the European game.

The wealthy French club, under experienced coach Carlo Ancelotti, is on course for its first domestic title for 18 years as well as being in the last eight of the Champions League after an 18-year absence.

PSG goes into tonight’s tie, however, as underdog for the first time this season - and will do well to survive it. Qatari fund QSI has set PSG a tough agenda of winning the Champions League within five years, having bought the club last year and poured huge amounts of money into transfers to build a team made for Europe.

Center back Thiago Silva, front man Zlatan Ibrahimovic and forward Ezequiel Lavezzi, who all signed last year, have been key in helping PSG reach this stage, and at least it has a good omen on its side.

Much change since the last clash

The last time the club reached the quarterfinals in 1995, it beat Barcelona but much has changed since. PSG has been absent while Barcelona has been crowned European champion three times.

Silva said the tie was “the game we all were dreaming about” and the expensively purchased trio will have to raise their level to the heights if PSG is to stand any chance of winning.

Latest signing David Beckham, who joined them on a five-month deal in January, believes they can meet these expectations.

“This club have high aspirations. We want to go as far as we can in all competitions,” the former England captain told reporters after the Ligue 1 home win over champion Montpellier on March 29.

“It’s obvious that we have the players for it. There’s no doubt we have the mentality. Now, it’s up to us to prove it on the pitch. Of course, it will be hard, but very exciting too,” added Beckham.

PSG’s chances were boosted when Ibrahimovic was freed to face his former club after the two-match ban imposed following his dismissal at Valencia was halved.

“It changes the deal,” midfield Clement Chantome said.

Vilanova returns

Ibrahimovic had a mixed year-long spell at Barça but said facing it again would not pose any problems for him.
“I have already played against Barcelona since I left and the game will be special for everybody here,” said the Swede, who faced his former teammates in the group stage with AC Milan in 2011.

“How to beat them is the question. We will need to stay focused and the coach will probably set up specific tactics to block the best team in the world.”