PARIS/ WOLFSBURG: When nouveaux riches Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City meet at the Parc des Princes in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final today, they will do so as the two most transformed teams of the modern game.
Part of Europe’s financial powerhouses, thanks to their rich Middle Eastern owners, City are in the last eight for the first time while PSG are there for the fourth year in succession.
The stakes are high, and it will all be a far cry from the only previous meeting between the teams, a little over seven years ago.
On a cold December night in 2008, PSG visited City for a UEFA Cup group stage tie that ended in an uninspiring 0-0 draw watched by 25,626 spectators.
Blanc warned PSG players against complacency ahead of City clash
It was just a few months after City had been taken over by Sheikh Mansour and the Abu Dhabi United Group, and Joe Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany were all in their team that night.
None of that night’s PSG team remain at the club today — instead of Zlatan Ibrahimovic they had Peguy Luyindula and Mateja Kezman up front, while there was no Thiago Silva in defence, but Sammy Traore and Gregory Bourillon were playing.
City were only in Europe in 2008-09 as England’s Fair Play representatives and PSG had come close to being relegated from Ligue 1 the previous season but did win the League Cup and lost to champions Lyon in the French Cup final.
That year City were an emerging force and ranked 19th in analysts Deloitte’s Football Money League, while PSG were nowhere to be seen.
Revenge mission: Barcelona out to exorcise memories of 2014
The same Deloitte report for 2014-15 ranked the clubs in the top six, along with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Bayern Munich.
“Now we are in there with clubs who are as powerful as us financially, who have much greater histories and who possess players as talented as ours. This is the ‘creme de la creme’,” said PSG coach Laurent Blanc.
El Clasico buoys Real’s Bale for Wolfsburg mission
Real Madrid star Gareth Bale says their El Clasico win over Barcelona has given the Spanish giants the perfect confidence booster for their Champions League quarter-final first leg at Wolfsburg.
Real used to have a terrible record away to German opposition in Europe, but their run to winning the 2014 final, when they claimed their 10th European crown, changed all that.
Having thrashed Schalke 6-1 in Gelsenkirchen two years ago in the last-16, they routed Bayern Munich 4-0 at the Allianz Arena in the semi-finals en route to beating Atletico Madrid in the final.
Real to carry 'Clasico' winning momentum to Wolfsburg
This time around, Zinedine Zidane’s Real are clear favourites for the quarter-final first leg at Wolfsburg’s Volkswagen Arena, especially after Saturday’s 2-1 victory when Cristiano Ronaldo scored their late winner at arch rivals Barcelona with 10 men.
“Mentally this win [against Barcelona] puts us in a great position, but we have to keep working hard,” said Bale.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2016.
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