x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

‘You always have to be demanding’ says Blanc as PSG look for motivation v Leverkusen

Paris Saint-Germain own a near-insurmountable 4-0 advantage over Bayer Leverkusen heading into the second leg of their Champions League last 16 tie, but coach Laurent Blanc doesn't want his side complacent.

Ezequiel Lavezzi scored twice on Saturday for Paris Saint-Germain. Pascal Pochard-Casablanca / AFP / March 8, 2014
Ezequiel Lavezzi scored twice on Saturday for Paris Saint-Germain. Pascal Pochard-Casablanca / AFP / March 8, 2014

Paris Saint-Germain cannot afford to let their concentration slip as they prepare for their Champions League last 16 second leg tie at home to Bayer Leverkusen on Wednesday, their coach Laurent Blanc believes.

The French champions stormed to a 4-0 success in Germany, leaving the tie as good as over ahead of the Parc des Princes clash.

Added to that, PSG are on a run of five straight victories, having plundered 16 goals in that period, while Leverkusen only ended a five-match losing streak in drawing 1-1 at Hannover on Saturday.

If form and precedence were taken into account, there would be no doubt this tie was already done and dusted – no team has ever overturned a 4-0 first leg deficit in a Champions League knock-out tie – but Blanc is not one to rest on his laurels.

“You always have to be demanding with your team,” said Blanc.

“In the Champions League, qualification is decided in the second match. For now, we don’t have it yet so we have to see through qualification.

“Whoever plays, we have the desire to win. That’s important because the biggest teams, even when going through difficult periods, they need to concentrate.”

The question of who plays will be an interesting one for PSG, for whom record-signing Edinson Cavani is available again having missed Saturday’s 3-0 win at Bastia after going back to Uruguay for personal reasons.

But in his absence, young Brazilian Lucas Moura has put in a couple of impressive performances after a largely disappointing season.

If Cavani comes back into the side, it will be either Lucas or Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi, who bagged a double in Corsica, sitting out.

And it is perhaps Lucas’s lack of goals that will count against him – he has managed just three in 33 appearances this season.

“His all-round play is a lot better but for a forward statistics are important and you can’t say a forward is having a great season if he’s not scoring,” said Blanc.

“Lavezzi is playing better than he was, he’s creating chances for himself and he’s finishing them off. He’s got eight goals now so that’s allowing him to rediscover his confidence.”

Although both players play out wide, their goalscoring records pale in comparison with Cavani’s 21 goals, and even more against the 38 by Zlatan Ibrahimovic this season in just 37 league, cup and European matches.

Whichever three line up against Leverkusen, the Germans will have a hard task containing the free-scoring Ligue 1 leaders.

And Blanc is happy that whoever he picks will be ready.

“Winning matches is always the best preparation,” he said. “But we can see that whoever plays, mentally they are ready.”

Although Bayer have never been beaten over two legs on the three previous occasions they have faced French opposition in Europe, they are facing a team unbeaten at home in 27 European games, dating back to November 2006 and a 4-2 defeat to Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the Uefa Cup.

And if Bayer do have any joy, it will likely have to be on the counter-attack as PSG have played more than twice as many completed passes in the competition to date than their German opponents – with 4,592 compared to 2,269.

Leverkusen have also scored less than half as many goals – nine to PSG’s 20.

Their near-impossible task hasn’t been helped, either, by an injury to midfielder Jens Hegeler, who suffered a torn ankle ligament against Hannover and will likely miss the rest of the season.

Defender Emir Spahic is also suspended after being sent off in the first leg.

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