PSG out to brush aside off-form Leverkusen

17 February 2014 08:53

Bayer Leverkusen must brush off recent poor form if they are to stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Paris Saint-Germain's march to the Champions League quarter-finals in Tuesday's last 16, first-leg clash.

Leverkusen have their work cut out containing maverick Ibrahimovic and overcoming the formidable obstacle of high-scoring PSG if they are to reach the last eight for the first time since 2002.

Any side with Ibrahimovic in their ranks is dangerous and the Parisians finished as comfortable winners of Group C, scoring 16 goals in the process.

The 32-year-old boasts the superb return of eight goals from five Champions League matches this term, leaving him second only to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo, who has nine.

The Sweden star already has three more than in his previous best seasons in the competition with Inter Milan in 2007/08 and AC Milan in 2011/12.

Sami Hyypia-coached Leverkusen have had far from an ideal preparation, crashing to their second straight home defeat, their fifth loss in seven games, when they went down 2-1 to Schalke 04 in Saturday's Bundesliga match.

The defeat followed second-division Kaiserslautern's shock 1-0 extra time German Cup win at Leverkusen's BayArena last Wednesday, but Hyypia refuses to panic.

"If we play like we did against Schalke, we will be able to live with Paris," said the ex-Liverpool defender.

"Only playing well doesn't bring us points, we have to be more effective and score goals. I hope we manage that against Paris."

Hyypia will be able to call up Germany winger Sidney Sam, who was rested for the Schalke defeat after announcing in January that he will join the Royal Blues at the end of the season.

Having reached the quarter-finals for the first time last season, big-spending PSG are gunning to be crowned European champions for the first time.

"I think it would mean a lot," said Ibrahimovic, who scored in PSG's 3-0 win at home to Valenciennes on Friday to stay top of the French league.

"If we can get further than the quarter-finals this year, it would be a big step for us.

"This project has been ongoing for two years and I've been here for one-and-a-half - it is developing."

Leverkusen's last foray into the Champions League's knockout rounds came two years ago when they lost 3-1 at home to Barcelona in the last 16's first-leg, only to be humiliated 7-1 in Spain when Lionel Messi hit a record five goals.

With the return leg in Paris on March 12, Leverkusen will need to tighten up at the back.

The Werkself need to correct their deep-lying defence, which was punished when Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar headed Schalke's late winner.

Hyypia will be without Australia winger and knee injury-victim Robbie Kruse, who is out for the season, while ex-Bayern Munich midfielder Emre Can is suspended.

Uruguay forward Edinson Cavani is missing for PSG with a hamstring injury, while defenders Zoumana Camara, calf, and Christophe Jallet, back, are rated doubtful.

Nevertheless, PSG head to Leverkusen in buoyant mood after Friday's win kept them top of the French league with a five-point lead.

"The primary goal before the Leverkusen match was to take the three points," said PSG coach Laurent Blanc.

"The players were thinking about Leverkusen, but they ignored that and got the job done."

Source: AFP