Paris Saint-Germain’s attacking depth makes them marginal favourites for our Champions League quarter-final tie, according to Jose Mourinho. That opinion was in contrast to the one voiced by his PSG counterpart, Laurent Blanc, as well as his former player Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who both stressed it was the London side that were more likely to progress.
Our manager explained the reasoning behind his stance, having first said he respected the views of Blanc and Ibrahimovic.
‘They have a team full of fantastic attacking players and goalscorers and that is what really makes the difference in this level,’ said Mourinho.
‘You look at the teams in the last eight. All of them are good teams. They are different teams but good teams with good structures and with a certain philosophy. After that you see Messi, Ronaldo, Lewandowski, Diego Costa, Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Lavezzi, and PSG have lots of them.
‘I have watched many Paris matches and I think Laurent has a clear philosophy. The way they play is the way they play. Even against Bayer Leverkusen in the second leg when they changed all three midfield players their philosophy was the same, the positional play was the same and this is a very good quality for a team. They have an idea and they go with their idea. We are the same. We are going to play the way we are training and playing and we also believe in what we do.’
The Portuguese also explained that despite differing levels of experience between the two sides at the top level of European football, there was in actual fact little to choose between them on an individual basis.
‘Maybe Paris as a club doesn’t have, over the last decade, the same level as Chelsea in the Champions League but you go player by player and the picture is not like that. Alex, Thiago Silva, Zlatan, Motta, Maxwell, Cavani – all of them have big experience in the competition.
‘In our case it can be a little bit different because as a club we are in the Champions League season after season. We have a nucleus of players that have lots of experience in the Champions League but we also have lots of players without that experience.’
Two of PSG’s key players who possess such experience are Ibrahimovic – who already has 10 Champions League goals to his name this season – and Thiago Motta. Both are well-known to Mourinho, who managed the pair during his time with Inter Milan. He first discussed his relationship with the Swedish striker, who had told the press earlier he will not move to the Premier League in the future.
‘We connected very well. The only time we disagreed was obvious because I wanted him to stay in Inter and he wanted to leave for Barcelona, but that’s normal. During one year our relationship was phenomenal.
‘When people say that he’s a difficult personality, for me the difficult personalities are the players that don’t want to win, don’t want to work, and don’t want to be the best. He wants to work and he wants to be best. He has a big ego, a big self-esteem, and he knows he’s a really top player, so for me to be his coach was fantastic. We are friends and we respect each other.
‘He has to be where he is happy and if he is happy in Paris – and I know he is – I think he has to stay. At the same time it’s a pity for him when he finishes his career that he didn’t play in the best league in the world and he never won the best league in the world. However his career is so rich and so full of success he can be considered one of the greatest players even if he never played in the Premier League.’
Mourinho also highlighted Thiago Motta’s importance to the PSG side and said we would need to try to make him feel ‘uncomfortable’ in possession if we are to limit the Brazilian midfielder’s influence.
Asked to name his team for the game in the French capital Mourinho reported the back four would remain unchanged but refused to go beyond that. He did, however, draw comparisons between PSG’s rise to significant prominence in European competition and our own, 10 years ago.
‘You can find similarities. When Mr Abramovich bought the club he was ready and keen and the football rules were open to that so the investment was important, probably the most important investment in that period. As a consequence of that Chelsea built year after year some of the best teams in European football.
‘Paris is doing the same. Some people don’t understand how because it looks like the Financial Fair Play is going to be in practice, but the reality is that in the last two years the investment was massive, the choice of the players fantastic. Leonardo [the former PSG sporting director] started a period of spending money but spending it on the right players and building the right team.
‘In this moment the team is very complete, it’s full of very good players and the coach is good. The passion in this city is also good and the Parc de Princes is a beautiful place to play. Now they are dominant in France like Chelsea was dominant in England. The same way Chelsea were chasing the Champions League season after season, reaching semi-finals and finals and winning it, Paris is doing the same and now they want to win it.’
– Pat Nevin and Jody Morris are the guests in the Chelsea TV studio tomorrow evening for Matchnight Live, with coverage starting at 6.30pm.