Champions League

PSG keep focus on Apoel test

2014-11-04 11:24
Laurent Blanc (File)

Paris Saint-Germain have their eyes set on sealing a place in the last 16 of the Champions League when they entertain Apoel at the Parc des Princes in Group F on Wednesday.

The French capital club are unbeaten at home in Europe in eight years and a win against the Cypriot champions will be enough to take them through to the knockout phase in the competition for the third season running providing Ajax fail to beat Barcelona in Amsterdam in the night's other game.

Laurent Blanc's side, who have not lost at all this season, dream of winning the Champions League but their display against Apoel in Nicosia two weeks ago, when they required a late Edinson Cavani strike to secure a 1-0 victory, means they will not be taking the group's supposed outsiders lightly.

"I think this match will be similar to when we played them last time. Nicosia are a difficult team to play against, aggressive in the right way and with good individual talents," Paris goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu told the club's website.

"They get men behind the ball and it is difficult to find spaces against them."

In recent times, PSG have saved their best performances for Europe, such as their 3-2 win against Barcelona at the end of September, while in Ligue 1 their displays have often been laboured.

However, this week they could perhaps be forgiven for prioritising domestic matters with a crunch home meeting with their bitter rivals Marseille – whom they trail by four points at the top of the table –awaiting on Sunday evening.

Blanc's injury worries have eased of late, with Brazilian centre-back Marquinhos returning to the side after a month on the sidelines in Saturday's 2-1 success at Lorient while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on the road to recovery from a heel injury.

The Swede, still PSG's top scorer this season, has been sidelined since September 21, and while he has been called up by Sweden for a Euro 2016 qualifier in Montenegro next week, it seems unlikely that he will be ready to return just yet.

Cavani will therefore once again lead the home attack while right-back Gregory Van der Wiel and midfielder Thiago Motta will start before sitting out the Marseille encounter due to suspension.

Apoel may only have one point so far, from a 1-1 home draw with Ajax, but they were only beaten 1-0 in Barcelona before almost holding PSG two weeks ago and they need a result to boost their chances of at least finishing third.

The Cypriot club, coached by former Greek international Giorgos Donis, are four points clear at the top of their domestic league after beating Ethnikos Achna 4-0 away at the weekend with Irish former Celtic striker Cillian Sheridan scoring twice.

Their most dangerous weapon is the veteran Brazilian Gustavo Manduca, although the former Benfica player is nursing a hamstring problem and Donis has a concern at left-back with Marios Antoniades and one-time Monaco man John-Arne Riise injured.

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