Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed that both Marco Verratti and Javier Pastore will miss the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with Manchester City.
Verratti has been on the sidelines since the middle of February and had long been considered an injury worry prior to the clash, while Pastore misses out with a calf issue that saw him miss Argentina’s recent World Cup qualifiers.
On the other hand, Angel Di Maria has returned to the unit after being overlooked for the weekend’s 4-1 victory over Nice following a knock he picked up with the Albiceleste. Blanc confirmed that the former Manchester United man has trained on each of the last three days and is at full fitness.
When Laurent Blanc spoke of being “happy” that Paris St-Germain had avoided the “two ogres of European football” in the quarter-finals of the Champions League the irony was not obviously apparent to him.
Manchester City travel to Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, for the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal as underdogs.
Here are five things the Premier League side must do to cause an upset against the already-crowned French champions.
There is no doubt that PSG have developed into one of the most attractive and fashionable clubs in Europe since their Qatari takeover, but the one thing that is missing so far is European glory.
For the fourth consecutive year they have made it to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but on each of the last three occasions this is where the road has ended – twice at the hands of Barcelona and once against Chelsea.
This year’s draw is widely regarded as their kindest yet at this stage of the competition, and hopes of reaching their first semi-final since 1994-95 – and only their second ever – will be high, despite Laurent Blanc’s claims that Manchester City’s squad contains more quality than his own.
An array of statistics would suggest otherwise, not least when it comes to talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored a second hat-trick in three games during a 4-1 win over Nice at the weekend to make it 30 Ligue 1 goals for the season – twice as many as any other player.
The Swede, who has been heavily linked with a move to the Premier League when his contract expires this summer, has won an incredible 13 domestic league titles in his last 15 seasons as a player, with six different clubs in four different countries, yet he has never lifted the Champions League trophy.
Showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 34, Ibrahimovic was on target in both legs of PSG’s last-16 victory over Chelsea as they won 2-1 home and away to pick up a 4-2 aggregate triumph.
That result kept them firmly on course for the quadruple this season, having already reached the final of the Coupe de la Ligue and the semi-final of the Coupe de France, both of which will take place later this month.
They have already sewn up a fourth straight Ligue 1 title in record time, and as if being crowned champions with eight games to spare was not impressive enough, they stormed to a club-record 9-0 victory over Troyes to see them over the line – the biggest away win in Ligue 1 history.
The gap to second-placed Monaco is currently 25 points, and with the record standing at 17, it looks as though Blanc’s side will set yet another new benchmark in the closing stages of the campaign.
There was a slip-up immediately after clinching the title as AS Monaco ended PSG’s 34-match unbeaten streak at home in the league, but that is their only defeat in front of their own fans in the last 29 games in all competitions.
That run stretches back to this stage of last season’s Champions League when the Parisians were beaten 3-1 at home by Barcelona en route to another quarter-final exit, but that is their only European defeat in front of their own fans in their last 38 outings – a run that stretches back to the 2006-07 UEFA Cup group stages.
This season they have won three of their four home outings, with only Real Madrid avoiding defeat at the Parc des Princes, while John Obi Mikel’s goal in the first leg of the previous round is the only time that they have conceded in those matches.
These two sides have only ever met once before, with that ending in a goalless draw during the 2008-09 UEFA Cup group stage. The City team that day included Hart, Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta, and it is their only previous competitive match against French opposition.
PSG are unbeaten in their last four meetings with Premier League opposition, all of which have come against Chelsea, but their overall record against English teams is mixed with four wins, five draws and four defeats from 13 outings (W3 D2 L1 at home).
The last three Champions League knockout ties between Ligue 1 and Premier League clubs have all ended in wins for the French side.