Laurent Blanc has admitted relief at avoiding the “ogres” of Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, the Paris Saint-Germain coach believing that Manchester City trail his club in Europe.
PSG host City in first leg at the Parc des Princes in what is their fourth consecutive quarter-final in the competition. City are in the stage for the first time and Blanc believes that gives PSG an edge.
“The experiences we have gathered in recent years might be a positive for us,” he said. “We were happy to avoid playing the two ogres of European football, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, and you can add a third one into that, Real Madrid.
“People have said this is an easy draw for us. I have the impression that people think it’s an easy draw. But I have seen so much of it that I gave the players a speech yesterday saying: ‘Don’t listen to them, do not believe it, they know nothing about football.’
“City have a great project there too, they have some great quality players on the pitch, it’s similar to Paris. They have a quality team with individual players who can make the difference. We’re preparing ourselves for two very difficult games.”
While PSG and City have Qatari and Abu Dhabi owners, respectively, Blanc brushed off the notion of any Gulf rivalry giving the tie an extra dimension. “We want to confirm what the owners all had in mind when they bought PSG,” he said. “We have nothing to demonstrate to Manchester City. This is not a challenge against [the owners of] Manchester City. They managed to win their domestic league which is not easy and some titles but maybe in Europe they’re a bit behind us.
“Maybe this shows [doing well in Europe] is not as easy as it looks. Whichever teams qualifies for the semi-finals will give a signal to the other teams.”
Blanc was dismissive of those who argue that French domestic football is inferior to the Premier League, questioning how many English clubs have reached Champions League semi-finals recently.
“Even the French media are asking the same question – ‘maybe the French league is not as strong’ – but I’m a bit bored of this,” he said. “How can you explain why England has a competitive domestic league but here in the last eight there is only one team? Maybe they have reached a further level in terms of fatigue. The Premier League is so intense that by March or April maybe they have reached their levels of fatigue.
“We have to play in our league, we are happy to do so, we have to have a stronger league but you need to find a balance. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t see many English teams in the last four of the Champions League in the last five or six years so there are problems in every domestic league, trust me.”
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