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PSG - Opposition Views


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The Champions League is back this week and we have a difficult task away against the Champions of France, PSG. Ross Mackiewicz from http://1970psg.com has taken the time to take part in an interview.

We will start with an easy question, how long have you been a fan of PSG and what made you become a supporter?

It is simply down to one man and one man alone, Ronaldinho. Growing up and watching the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Brazil were my second team. Ronaldo and Rivaldo were two of my idols growing up, particularly Rivaldo who for me was severely underrated despite winning a Ballon dOr in 1999. But, during that tournament they were joined by a new starlet in Ronaldinho. I had no knowledge of the player prior to that World Cup but he did things during that month of football that enthralled me. I was intrigued, did my research and found out he played for a club in France called Paris Saint-Germain.

From then on in my interest in the club grew. I watched as much of them as I could on Eurosport when Ligue 1 games were easily accessible on English television. The Portuguese striker Pedro Pauleta caught my eye and I will never forget his wonder goal in the classique against Marseille in 2004 which, if you have not seen, you must!

As I got older, I took up football writing. I have written for a number of reputable sites and I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to do so. But I saw an opportunity to do something off my own back with PSG. When the takeover from QSI was confirmed in 2011, I knew interest from afar would grow in the club and at that time there was very little English speaking content on Ligue 1 particularly on PSG. So it has gone on from there and the progress in 33 months has been unbelievable. The team that was put out on the first day of the season at home to Lorient in August 2011 (which ended in a 1-0 defeat) is unrecognisable to the one that Chelsea will face on Wednesday.

Who do you think has been your player of the season and who will be the biggest threat to us?

There have been a number of players I can mention. For me, Thiago Motta has been outstanding. He has put his injury woes behind him that had plagued his time in Paris but his aura just in front of the back four and the support he gives the other two central midfielder (Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti) has culminated in them forging one of Europes best midfields.

But to win games, you have to score. You need a talisman and undoubtedly ours is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. What can you say that about this phenomenon that hasnt already? Well, he has won us games on his own at times, particularly last season. This campaign, the team has evolved into an all-round machine but Ibra is there in the midst of everything. He has scored a whopping 40 goals in all competitions this season (which is a club record) and even contributed with 11 assists (the highest in Ligue 1). He is Chelseas biggest threat. There is no doubt about that. His record in Europe this year is there for all to see and I am sure Jose Mourinho will try and find a way to stop him.

Edinson Cavani has had a few injury niggles and off field problems with his divorce but for a debut season, he can be mightily pleased. Playing on the left-hand side which is alien to him, he has still managed 21 goals.

PSG are doing great in Ligue 1, what have been your strengths and weaknesses this season?

We are 13 points clear at the top (14 if you consider our superior goal difference) and in essence that has been our biggest strength, scoring goals. We have the best attack in the league having scored 71 (21 more than second placed Monaco). We also have the best defence, conceding just 17.

We are in an incredible period at the moment. We broke a new club record last week at Lorient with eight consecutive victories and extended that to nine last Friday with a win in Nice.

Our home form is formidable. We have not lost at the Parc des Princes in the last 27 games, the last being back in November 2011 against Rennes. That is a huge factor in the position we find ourselves. The Parc has become a fortress, much like Stamford Bridge under Mourinho.

Weaknesses? Our defence has improved but we are still a little vulnerable from set-pieces. We had a jittery period not too long back that every time a corner came in we seemed to panic. No doubt Mourinho will have identified that as a possible chink in the armour.

Chelsea will look to press us on Wednesday and this is something we have not encountered too much this season. Your team are experts in doing this as was shown in the win away to Manchester City and the thumping of Arsenal just last week. It will be interesting to see how we deal with that.

Do you think Ligue 1 can reach the level of the Premier League in the future with the investments in it?

The Premier League is special. It would take more than just PSG and Monaco for Ligue 1 to reach anything near the aura that league generates to millions across the world. But Paris has done wonders in terms of luring new fans to Ligue 1 and generating an interest that it has never seen before.

Many will argue that there is a danger of L1 becoming predictable as Paris has the means to go out and buy the worlds best players. Monaco has joined that fray now as well. It is just not possible for other clubs to do this. You just need to look at Lyon who dominated the domestic scene for a decade but are now having to rely on youth. Football does go in cycles and this is certainly PSGs.

I am being bias but to many from the outside looking in, they probably do not perceive Ligue 1 as one of Europes best. But it is certainly just as physical, emotional and entertaining as any other league in Europe.

What are your opinions on Chelsea?

Chelsea are a blueprint for many clubs to follow. It has gone from a relatively big club in England to a powerhouse in Europe in just over 10 years. Like with ourselves vast amounts of money has been spent to make Chelsea in the club it is today but to stay at the top, win an abundance of domestic titles and to win the European Cup just does not happen by chance. You have to admire the work that has been done at the Bridge.

As a club, you have a huge reputation in Europe now. As a team, it is just as vast. Your pedigree in the Champions League is on a par with only a few clubs, who season after season always reaches the latter stages (bar that blip last season, and you still won the Europa League!).

I have a lot of time for Mourinho and I like him very much. But, I did not agree when he said PSG are favourites. For me, you guys are! You have a record in Europe that we can only dream of. That know-how in Europe is a huge advantage.

Chelsea have the best defence in both the CL & EPL. Do you think they can stop the likes of Ibra and Cavani?

John Terry and Gary Cahill have been the best centre-back pairing in the Premier League this season. So we are coming up Englands best. But not too many defences can keep Ibra quiet. They may quell him for large periods but he will always sniff out a chance. They need to be 100% focused. One little lapse can be the difference in these games and thats all Ibra needs. Mourinho is a master, John Terry is as experienced as they come so I have no doubt they will ensure that they are switched on at all times.

A lot of our play will come from the wide areas. Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic have been fantastic at full-back but there is a question mark as to who they will be up against. Edinson Cavani will most probably start on the right but if Laurent Blanc opts to play Lucas Moura instead of Ezequiel Lavezzi, then Cavani will go to the left with LM opposite. It depends really on the fitness of Gregory Van der Wiel who has a terrific understanding with Cavani. If VDW plays, Cavani will be on the right. And Ezequiel Lavezzi on the left.

If you could have one Chelsea player at PSG who would that be and why?

Without a doubt, Eden Hazard. We have two very good players in Lavezzi and Lucas (who will be one of the worlds best in the coming years) who play on the left but Hazard is something special. The thought of him in a PSG shirt is a fantasy but I would love for it to be a reality. We saw during his time in Lille just how special a player he was and this season under Chelsea he has seemed to get better. He caused us many problems when we faced him and his Lille side even won the league at the Parc des Princes.

Whats your expected line-up and formation?

As usual, we will be 4-3-3. The system never changes. We are used to it and is the key to our success.

We only have one doubt via injury and that is Gregory Van der Wiel. For me, this is a big blow. He has been outstanding this season and one of our best performers in the Champions League. He has been struggling with his knee so it looks as if Christophe Jallet will continue at right-back.

Team: Sirigu, Jallet, Alex, Silva, Maxwell, Matuidi, Motta, Verratti, Lavezzi/Lucas, Cavani, Ibrahimovic.

Finally what's your prediction for the game?

I am expecting a real close game with very few chances. We need to win this first-leg to give ourselves a chance of going through in London. I think whoever scores the first goal will have a huge advantage. Both sides are sound at the back and that will be crucial.

Considering the form we are in and our unbelievable record at home, I think we will sneak this 1-0.

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