Ahead of our Champions League quarter-final first leg against French champions Paris Saint-Germain, I interviewed PSG supporter and blogger Matt who writes on the excellent PSG Tourist blog and he gave me the inside track on Laurent Blanc’s team.
Q: How long have you been supporting PSG, and what’s your favourite memory of following Les Parisiens?
Matt: I’ve been a PSG fan since 2004, my first visit to the Parc des Princes was in August that year for a 2-2 draw with Caen. Obviously things have changed quite a lot at the club since then. As memories go, last season’s league title was pretty good, but beating Marseille is always a highlight, and my favourite PSG match was a 4-2 win at the Velodrome in 2008.
Q: For anyone who doesn’t follow Ligue 1, how would you sum up PSG’s season to date?
Matt: I’d say it’s gone better than most people expected. The summer was a bit of a shambles, with roughly 1,545,251 managers turning us down before Laurent Blanc was appointed. Blanc wasn’t a popular choice with many supporters due to his Marseille connections, but he’s got the team playing a brand of football which is much more pleasing on the eye than that served up by his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti. With just one league defeat all season, the title is looking done and dusted, we’re in the final of the Coupe de la Ligue and obviously things are going well in the Champions League too.
Q: How has your Champions League campaign been so far?
Matt: PSG were in a fairly weak group, and for the most part they strolled through, even if scorelines in a couple of the matches were a bit flattering. The last-16 tie with Bayer Leverkusen was over by half-time in the first leg (PSG were 3-0 up), so it’s fair to say Chelsea represent the first meaningful test for this team in the competition. No complaints so far though.
Q: What are the strengths of this PSG team, and are there any weaknesses Chelsea could exploit?
Matt: Although Ibrahimovic and Cavani get all the headlines, the strength of the team is the midfield trio. Thiago Motta provides the link between the back four and the front players, breaking up play and doing all the unsung work. Marco Verratti’s confidence and passing ability – if not his fiery temperament – mark him out as a star of the future, while Blaise Matuidi has phenomenal energy and is surely one of the best all-round midfielders in Europe at the moment. Few teams have won a midfield battle with PSG this season, so Chelsea will have a tough task to stop them.
In terms of weaknesses, right-back is probably an area you can target. Greg van der Wiel has been in good form this season, but a knee injury looks set to keep him out, and his replacement, Christophe Jallet, isn’t up to the same standard. Also, Alex is likely to play, and his ageing legs can be exposed by pacey, tricky, forwards.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard PSG had drawn Chelsea?
Matt: I was happy to have avoided Bayern and Real Madrid! I think it’s intriguing tie because, from what I’ve seen of Chelsea this season, I consider the teams to be very evenly matched. And obviously it’s always fun to come up against Jose Mourinho!
Q: What sort of game are you expecting from Chelsea?
Matt: I imagine they’ll try and do to PSG what they did to Manchester City at the Etihad; soak up pressure and counter-attack with pace. PSG have been frustrated by a few teams who have played like that over the last couple of seasons, and I’m pleased that Matic isn’t available as he seems like an ideal player for this type of situation.
Q: Score predicitions
Matt: Not many teams have stopped PSG from scoring this season. I’ll go PSG 2-1 Chelsea in the first leg, with a 1-1 draw at the Bridge seeing Blanc’s men into the semi-finals.