Leverkusen out to put brakes on PSG's Ibrahimovic

18 February 2014 09:12

Stopping star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic appears to be Bayer Leverkusen's main preoccupation as they prepare to host Paris Saint-Germain in Tuesday's last-16, first-leg Champions League clash.

Having hit the net eight times in five Champions League matches this season, Ibrahimovic's goalscoring prowess is second only to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who has nine in this campaign so far.

"Even if you play perfectly against him, he is always able to score a goal," said Leverkusen coach Sami Hyypia, the former Liverpool centre-back who knows a thing or two about keeping strikers quiet.

"But we have to fight to make sure he gets as little ball as possible."

Bosnia defender Emir Spahic has the unenviable task of marking Ibrahimovic, but captain Simon Rolfes said the Bundesliga side must make life as uncomfortable as possible for the Swedish star.

"You can't completely switch him off, but we have to at least permanently annoy him," said Rolfes.

"We have to go to our limits and then we'll have to see if that is enough to cause Paris some problems."

PSG coach Laurent Blanc said Ibrahimovic is more than capable of coping with the extra attention.

"He has experience to spare, he will always score and he will score goals until the end of his career," said Blanc.

"For him to be decisive at this stage in the competition is more difficult, because the defences are better organised.

"But he remains our greatest asset to score and he's the player on which Bayer will focus, this type of match motivates him more than a championship."

The Parisians come to Leverkusen's BayArena as clear favourites.

They finished as comfortable winners of Group C, scoring 16 goals in the process, while Sami Hyypia's Leverkusen reached the last 16 despite a 5-0 hammering at home to Manchester United as Group A runners-up.

Leverkusen need no reminding of their last foray into the knockout rounds two years ago when they lost 3-1 at home to Barcelona, only to be humiliated 7-1 in Spain when Lionel Messi hit a record five goals.

"Paris are the favourites, but we are confident challengers and will run out with heads held high," insisted Rolfes, as Leverkusen look to reach the last eight of the Champions League for the first time in 12 years.

"What we saw against Manchester will not happen again."

Recent results suggest Bayer are far from the assured outfit Rolfes insists they are ahead of the visit of the French league leaders after back-to-back home losses.

Leverkusen crashed to a 2-1 league reverse to Schalke last Saturday, which followed their shock 1-0 extra-time defeat to second-division Kaiserslautern last Wednesday in the German Cup quarter-finals.

Blanc said possession will be key for PSG with unseasonably mild day-time temperatures of 13 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) forecast in Leverkusen on Tuesday.

"We have to make sure we have the better share of the possession, we know Bayer are athletic and they like to stand deep and are then deadly on the counter-attack," said Blanc.

"We have to be efficient, but possession is everything and when we don't have it, we'll have to work hard to get it back as quickly as possible."

Source: AFP