Saturday 14 December 2019

Blanc admits PSG will be judged by European glory alone

French kingpins are 24 points clear in league but still fighting for respect

Laurent Blanc. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters
Laurent Blanc. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Sam Wallace

Laurent Blanc may believe that his Paris St-Germain team, 24 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 at the midpoint of February, deserve more credit but he conceded yesterday that, in what will be their fourth straight title-winning season, games like tonight's will dictate how they are judged.

The Champions League is where it counts for PSG, undefeated in the league and looking down from a great height at the rest of domestic French football thanks to their Qatari owners.

There was no wonder that Blanc bristled when it was put to him that the Serge Aurier Periscope scandal "would not have happened at Barcelona or Manchester United".

It yielded a lecture on the pitfalls of social media for guileless young footballers, and certainly there are few more lacking in common sense than the 23-year-old right-back, who will be notable by his absence tonight at the Parc des Princes.

His stream of invective against Blanc, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and others on the live-streaming app has caused the club a major embarrassment as they face Chelsea for the third time in three years in the Champions League.

Both times previously, under Jose Mourinho, it has felt like the English club have been the team with it all to lose despite the vast investment in PSG.

This time, with Guus Hiddink tasked with saving the scraps of Chelsea's season, and this probably the club's last Champions League campaign for at least a year, the damage has already been done. It is up to PSG, who prevailed last season, to come up with the goods.

"When we started this season with PSG, we knew our season would be judged practically all on the Champions League," Blanc said. "Everyone thinks we are going to win the domestic league, and that we are expected to win every cup match, scoring four goals each game. . . but the Champions League is the real judgment against elite clubs.

"We are prepared for these games. We've proved that. The players know each other better and, for the last three years, we have brought in or developed big players with Champions League experience. Players who have won it before, players who have learned from the three quarter-finals.

"We will be playing at a level we don't see in Ligue 1, but that's interesting for me as the coach, the players and the club. We can show if the club is progressing through these games, and if we can eventually win the Champions League.

"The club is getting bigger and bigger, and we can think now that PSG are able to win the Champions League. That's very good, and means we are moving in the right direction."


Chelsea are 12th in the Premier League after Saturday's 5-1 win over Newcastle United, and the corresponding 12th-placed team in Ligue 1 are Bastia - who trail PSG by 36 points after 26 games. To put that in perspective, Chelsea only have 33 points themselves, after the same number of games.

This is going to be a very different experience for PSG, who are unbeaten in their league and have dropped only eight points all season. Aside from Aurier, Blanc barely has a player missing. Marco Verratti may not yet be fit enough to start and Javier Pastore has a calf problem but otherwise they are all fit.

Last year, PSG were timid and deferential in the home leg against Chelsea; this season they have to be better. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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