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Rampant PSG look to secure last-16 berth

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04 Nov 2013 01:47:35

Rampant PSG look to secure last-16 berth

Paris Saint-Germain will look to put fitness concerns to one side and continue their superb recent form to clinch a place in the last 16 of the Champions League when they entertain Anderlecht on Tuesday.

Laurent Blanc's side have enjoyed a perfect start to their continental campaign this season, winning all three games, scoring 12 goals and letting in just one.

When they last met Anderlecht in Brussels late last month, the Ligue 1 title holders ran out 5-0 winners, registering their biggest ever European away win as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four times including a quick-fire first-half hat-trick.

But the nature of that victory was perfectly in keeping with their recent performances, with PSG coming into the return encounter with the Belgians fresh from thumping Lorient 4-0 on Friday.

They are unbeaten in their 16 competitive matches this season and have not lost over 90 minutes in 31 games since the start of March.

Another win on Tuesday will take them through to the knockout phase before their final games against Olympiakos and Benfica.

Thiago Motta featured for Barcelona when they won the Champions League in 2006 and was later part of the Inter Milan squad when they lifted the trophy in 2010.

Despite that, he missed out on appearing in the final both times, but now he believes that the French champions are one of the select few who could go all the way to next May's showpiece in Lisbon.

"It won't be easy because there are three other teams who are capable of getting there too -- Bayern Munich, Barca and Real Madrid," the Brazilian-born Italian international said last week.

"There is not much difference between us technically, physically or in terms of our collective play. What brings us close to the level of the teams with whom I have won the title, and the other teams to have won it, is the fact that we have equally great players."

PSG's win against Lorient -- which extended their unbeaten run at the Parc des Princes to 24 games in all competitions since November last year -- was achieved despite Blanc making a host of changes to a starting line-up deprived of Zlatan Ibrahimovic due to a minor knee problem and still missing skipper Thiago Silva.

Edinson Cavani has since picked up a hamstring problem to add to Blanc's injury worries, but elegant 18-year-old midfielder Adrien Rabiot admits the mood among the squad as a whole is buoyant.

"All the players are at 100 percent. It is a pleasure to play in a team like this. I have the impression that we are invincible, especially at the Parc with our fans behind us," he said.

"Now we will concentrate on Anderlecht because we are just missing one victory in order to qualify."

In stark contrast to PSG, Anderlecht are bottom of Group C having lost all three games to date without scoring a goal.

One of Europe's leading sides in the 1970s and 1980s, when they won five continental trophies including the 1983 UEFA Cup, the Belgian champions can no longer compete at this level.

They are also now struggling even to compete in their own domestic Pro League having sold several established stars in the summer before replacing them with untested youngsters.

Fifth in their domestic table, Les Mauves' coach John Van den Brom is under pressure and has lost two key players -- captain Guillaume Gillet and Argentine forward Matias Suarez -- to serious injuries since the last meeting of the clubs.

"It's going to be difficult. Everyone remembers the beating they gave us two weeks ago," said defender Cheikhou Kouyaté. "We will go there hoping to avoid a similar outcome."


AFP

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