Blanc expects big things of PSG
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has acknowledged reaching the Champions League semi-finals is "quite an objective" as he looks for his side to reproduce their recent Ligue 1 form when they begin their Champions League campaign against Olympiakos on Tuesday night.
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Blanc joked that coaches served no purpose after seeing his team, comprising a number of players fatigued by international duty and by Blanc's own admission under-prepared, produce their best display of the season to date in disposing of Bordeaux last Friday.
While a trip to Piraeus is always daunting, particularly with the hosts having stormed to four straight wins in the Greek league, Blanc will keep faith with the 4-2-3-1 formation that served him so well at the Stade Chaban-Delmas as he aims to take up the challenge set him upon his appointment in late June: emulate Carlo Ancelotti's run to the quarter-finals last season at the very least, and if possible, go one better.
"It seems to me to be a lofty ambition to do better than last year because PSG went to the quarters. To be among the best four European teams is a challenge, quite an objective," said Blanc, who is poised to give Marquinhos his PSG debut in place of the injured Alex and exile Edinson Cavani to the flank.
"We'll keep the same system as at Bordeaux, even if certain players will change. The objective is to produce the best match possible and get a good result to start the competition well. There is a great challenge to take on. To go far in the Champions League, you have to go step-by-step, and the first is the group stage. Some great things are coming up for Paris Saint-Germain."
PSG come into the Group C curtain-raiser on an eight-game unbeaten run in the competition, and though they are also without the injured Javier Pastore, their squad is better equipped than that of their hosts.
With a French sporting director, Pierre Issa, and Blanc's 1998 World Cup-winning team-mate Christian Karembeu the Olympiakos president's advisor, however, the hosts have expert insight on the Ligue 1 champions.
Despite that, Karembeu, 42, told sport365 the hosts begin as overwhelming underdogs.
"If we can get three points, all the better, but already a point would be good for us. PSG are big favourites, it's David versus Goliath," the former Real Madrid and Middlesbrough midfielder explained without totally writing off his club's chances of progressing to the knockout stages.
"We've managed to get to the quarter-finals before. There's everything to play for. If we think we have a chance, we'll do all we can to take it. Logic dictates that PSG and Benfica will take the top two spots with us battling with Anderlecht for third, but if there is a chance, we'll do everything we can to see it through."