PSG at crossroads of history against Real Madrid
PARIS — A former Barcelona and Juventus defender, Dani Alves has all the credentials required to speak about what makes a club great.
Signed by Paris Saint-Germain last year as part of the French club’s plans to win the Champions League, the 34-year-old Brazil right back believes his new team is at a crossroads.
After repeated failures in the Champions League, the super-rich club backed by Qatari funds needs to overturn a 3-1 deficit against defending champion Real Madrid when they meet at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday in the second leg of the round of 16.
Alves, who won three Champions Leagues with Barcelona, said knocking Madrid out of the competition would help PSG enter a new dimension in Europe.
“Getting past opponents like those of tomorrow is what we currently lack,” Alves said on Monday. “It’s what we need to take it to the next level. We need to make our rivals take us into account and stop thinking Paris is just a team with a lot of money.”
Since Qatar Sports Investments took over PSG in 2011 with the aim of turning it into a world-class club, the owner has spent millions of dollars on new players, including 400 million euros ($492 million) on new forwards last year. But despite the massive investments, PSG has never been beyond the quarterfinals in that time.
Last year, PSG came close to achieving a big coup on the continental scene when it thrashed Barcelona 4-0 at home only to be humiliated 6-1 in the return leg.
“Tomorrow will be a unique moment, a moment that perhaps we won’t have the chance to live again,” Alves said. “History is there to be changed. PSG has shown its limits in that competition in the past, it’s now time to get beyond them, so we can keep growing as a club and a team. We are going to try and knock them out. We want to send a message to the others, letting them know we have the weapons to see this through.”
In addition to attracting Alves, PSG also splashed out a world record 222 million euros ($260 million) to sign Neymar from Barcelona. But the Brazil striker won’t feature against Madrid or in the rest of the season after breaking his right foot on Feb. 25.
“We have two options,” Alves said. “Either we sit down and cry, or we stand up and fight. Of course PSG is stronger with Neymar. But without him we remain a strong team.”
In the absence of Neymar, PSG coach Unai Emery has a lot of attacking options. Emery is expected to keep using his favorite 4-3-3 system, with Kylian Mbappe, Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria in charge of the scoring duties.
“Neymar is an important player who made us suffer in the past when he played with Barcelona. But Di Maria is also an immense player,” Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos said. “For us it does not change anything. Because Di Maria is a versatile player and brings an extra something defensively.”
Di Maria has 11 goals in his last 11 starts in all competitions and is almost certain to start against his former club.
“Di Maria is ready, he knows the Champions League well, and I’m convinced he will be hungry,” Emery said.
Emery said Mbappe and center back Marquinhos, who were doubtful with minor injuries, trained normally on Sunday. The coach has concerns about Javier Pastore’s form, though.
As for Madrid, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, who haven’t played in nearly three weeks because of injuries, traveled to France with their teammates. Modric had been nursing a muscle injury and Kroos had a left knee problem. Neither has played since the first leg against PSG on Feb. 14.
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane will also be able to count on the return of right back Dani Carvajal, who missed the first leg because of a suspension.
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