Tuesday, 12 April 2016

No Blancs for Zlatan at Etihad

Laurent Blanc has warned Manchester City that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is determined to end their Champions League campaign at the Etihad Stadium.

Ibrahimovic is the chief obstacle standing in City’s way as they attempt to reach the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Paris Saint-Germain.

The Sweden striker had a mixed night in the first leg of their quarter-final in France last week, scoring and hitting the bar but also missing a penalty and spurning another good chance in the 2-2 draw.

Ibrahimovic, 34, has had a fine season, scoring 30 goals in Ligue 1 for the runaway champions. He is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with a move to England, most recently with City’s rivals Manchester United.

Blanc expects him to be at his sharpest at the Etihad Stadium. He said: “We’re always a bit surprised when Zlatan misses a chance but when you’re a top goalscorer like him, you can miss a couple. Unfortunately for us he missed them in that game. He still scored, though, and he’s someone who is extremely demanding of himself.

“He wants to show something else tomorrow [Tuesday], he wants to be more clinical in front of goal. If we create as many chances as the first leg, I think his conversion rate will be a lot higher.”

PSG showed plenty of attacking impetus at the Parc des Princes as they recovered from a goal down to take the lead and, when Ibrahimovic hit the woodwork, it seemed they would win convincingly.

But both sides were prone to errors and Fernandinho pounced on one from PSG to equalise and keep the tie alive.

Blanc, who could have the midfielder Marco Verratti back after almost eight weeks out with a groin injury, knows improvements are necessary. He said: “We’ve analysed the first game and looked at the errors we made. There was too wide a gap between players, we were not compact enough and opened too much space for City.

“When you think of the players they’ve got, particularly going forward, they can create problems for a lot of teams, not just us. We need to perform at the highest possible level, a higher level than the first game.

“PSG are capable of qualifying but we know how difficult it will be. I would still like us to create as many chances as we created last week because I am pretty sure we would score a fair few more.”

Also hoping to make an impression will be Ángel Di María, on his first return to Manchester since his unhappy spell at United last season. United signed the former Real Madrid winger for a club-record £59.7m in 2014 but he was allowed to leave to join PSG last summer.

Blanc said: “I don’t think Ángel has anything to prove. He’s going to be under pressure, like we all will. He joined us to bring his experience in the competition – he has won the Champions League.”

Di María himself hopes PSG can get back to their best. The Argentinian told the club’s website, www.psg.fr: “We need to play the way we know how – control the ball, attack and take the chances that come our way. That’s how we’ve won our matches up until this point. It’s our style.”

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