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Thursday , August 13 2020

Time to deliver for PSG and Man City – Real to carry Clasico winning momentum to Wolfsburg

Real Madrid’s Brazilian midfielder Casemiro vies with Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez during the Spanish league ‘Clasico’ football match FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona on April 2. (AFP)
Real Madrid’s Brazilian midfielder Casemiro vies with Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez during the Spanish league ‘Clasico’ football match FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona on April 2. (AFP)

PARIS, April 5, (RTRS): It is time to deliver for Paris St Germain and Manchester City as the two mega-rich teams prepare to lock horns in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. PSG, who were crowned Ligue 1 champions last month, are attempting to reach the last four for the first time since Qatar Sport Investment started investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the club in 2011.

City, who have been backed by the wealth of Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi for the last eight years. are featuring in the last eight of Europe’s biggest club competition for the first time. France midfielder Samir Nasri believes his City side are the underdogs. “Paris are the favourites,” said the former Arsenal player. “They’ve got the experience.” PSG, who knocked Chelsea out 4-2 on aggregate in the last 16, geared up for Wednesday’s game by thrashing Nice 4-1 with talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic bagging a hat-trick to take his goal tally in Ligue 1 this season to 30 goals.

City also warmed up in style with a handsome 4-0 win at Bournemouth but they have several injury concerns. Manuel Pellegrini’s men are definitely minus captain Vincent Kompany and are likely to be without goalkeeper Joe Hart and midfielder Yaya Toure. All three players have calf problems. “It may be difficult for them to be fit for Wednesday,” Pellegrini said of Hart and Toure.

The good news for City is that Nasri and Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne are fit again following lengthy injury layoffs. PSG midfielder Marco Verratti is sidelined with a groin injury although his team managed well enough without the Italian international when they beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in the second leg last month.

Forward Javier Pastore, who is often used as a substitute, is missing with a calf problem but playmaker Angel Di Maria is set to return following a minor knee injury. Ibrahimovic has been on fire in attack recently but midfielder Thiago Motta said it was more important how PSG fared as a team against City.

“It will not be Ibra against City but PSG against City,” the Italian said. “Maybe he will make the difference if he scores a goal but that’s not what matters. “What matters is that we win the game. If he puts himself under pressure saying he has to win the match it’s not going to go well.”

Real Madrid will carry their momentum from Saturday’s ‘Clasico’ victory over rivals Barcelona into their Champions League quarter-final first leg at struggling VfL Wolfsburg on Wednesday, coach Zinedine Zidane said. Real scored their first league win at the Nou Camp since 2012, inflicting the first home defeat for Barcelona since February 2015.

“It is very important to have got the win here for our confidence and for the remainder of the season and with it coming right before our Champions League game in Germany,” said Zidane. “We know just how important the Champions League is and we want to advance, so winning here in Barcelona was very important.” The Frenchman took over from Rafael Benitez at the start of the year and on Saturday came through his first big test with flying colours.

“I liked everything about my players’ performance. We put in a massive effort and I was pleased with everything, both defensively and attacking-wise,” said the 43-year-old, who as a player led Real to the Champions League title in 2002. “When I see a team that is united and all together, with everyone fighting for their team mates and for their coach, there’s nothing better.”

Zidane has every right to be satisfied with the form of Madrid as they aim to keep alive their unbeaten run in this year’s competition in the quarter-finals. They have won six successive games in all competitions since losing 1-0 at home to Atletico on Feb 27. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema in goal-scoring form and Gareth Bale delivering assists, Real are an awe-inspiring prospect for mercurial Wolfsburg, struggling domestically this season.

Last year’s Bundesliga runners-up and German Cup winners slumped to a 3-0 loss at Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday, putting European participation next season at risk. Wolfsburg, eighth in the Bundesliga, have also been struggling for goals in recent weeks, having scored just once in their last three league matches.

But Bast Dost, their top scorer last season, could make his comeback on Wednesday after being sidelined since January with a broken foot. Wolfsburg sports director Klaus Allofs hopes the team will recover for what is the club’s biggest European game to date and their first ever last eight appearance. “It would be fatal if we did not look forward to this game, a Champions League quarter-final,” Allofs said. “We have to enjoy this but also make sure we correct some things from our Leverkusen performance. I am convinced we will see a different VfL on Wednesday.”

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