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Football

PSG must take Chelsea game to another level, Blanc says

Ibrahimovic, left, and John Terry of Chelsea.

PARIS: Paris St. Germain will have to be ruthless in front of goal when they take on 2012 winners Chelsea in a Champions League quarter-final first leg Wednesday, according to coach Laurent Blanc.

The Ligue 1 champions-elect are on an eight-game winning streak in all competitions, but the former France centerback knows Chelsea, under Jose Mourinho, have the experience and defensive know-how to strangle any opposition.

“We will have to be more efficient,” Blanc said. “We will have fewer chances and those we create we will have to convert.

“We know we need to be at another level.”

Blanc’s expensively assembled squad have no equals in the domestic league, leading second-placed Monaco by 13 points with seven games left this season.

PSG also sailed through to the knockout stages of the Champions League from a group featuring Anderlecht, Porto and Olympiakos Piraeus before dismissing Bayer Leverkusen in the final 16.

The key to both games against Chelsea could be Blanc’s red-hot striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swedish international is the runaway leading scorer in Ligue 1 this term, with 25 goals – 11 ahead of teammate Edinson Cavani and Alexandre Lacazette of Olympique Lyon, who share second place.

Ibrahimovic has also excelled in the Champions League, bagging 10 goals in this season’s competition.

PSG, perhaps with one eye on the Chelsea game, produced a below-par performance at Nice Friday and only claimed a 1-0 will after an own goal from their opponents.

The Ligue 1 leaders are expected to be at full strength, although they have a slight doubt over Thiago Silva. The Brazilian centerback is likely to have to play in a facemask after fracturing his cheekbone 11 days ago.

Silva and fullback Gregory van der Wiel, who is recovering from a knee injury, were rested for the game.

The last time Chelsea visited the Parc des Princes, in the 2004-05 group stages, it was Mourinho’s first European game as the club’s manager, and he left with a 3-0 win over PSG

Mourinho will be desperate for a reaction from his players after they delivered an abject show in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at struggling Crystal Palace.

Chelsea were sluggish in midfield and toothless upfront, prompting the Portuguese manager to say their Premier League title ambitions were now a thing of the past.

Gary Cahill, one of four defenders to escape Mourinho’s wrath Saturday, said it was a painful experience for the squad.

“It hurts losing any football match and it certainly hurt at the end of the game because we knew how vital three points would be,” Cahill said.

“It was massively disappointing. The feeling at the end of the game was horrible, but all we can do is keep pushing. ... We have to bounce back,” he added.

Midfielder Nemanja Matic and winger Mohamed Salah are ineligible to play, after joining Chelsea in the January transfer window.

Brazilian playmaker Willian should be back after being rested at Palace, while Mourinho is hoping Samuel Eto’o can return up front after suffering a hamstring problem against Arsenal two weekends ago.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 02, 2014, on page 15.

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Summary

Paris St. Germain will have to be ruthless in front of goal when they take on 2012 winners Chelsea in a Champions League quarter-final first leg Wednesday, according to coach Laurent Blanc.

Blanc's expensively assembled squad have no equals in the domestic league, leading second-placed Monaco by 13 points with seven games left this season.

The key to both games against Chelsea could be Blanc's red-hot striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ibrahimovic has also excelled in the Champions League, bagging 10 goals in this season's competition.

The last time Chelsea visited the Parc des Princes, in the 2004-05 group stages, it was Mourinho's first European game as the club's manager, and he left with a 3-0 win over PSG


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