PSG out to prove they are UCL contenders - Thiago Silva

David Cooper 21/10/2015
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Interesting project: Thiago Silva.

Paris Saint-Germain will set out to show off their Champions League title credentials on Wednesday when they square off against Real Madrid with top spot in Group A up for grabs.

Both teams go into the encounter at the Parc des Princes unbeaten in all competitions and each has wins in the pool over Shakhtar Donetsk and Malmo.

Neither PSG nor Real has conceded a goal in the opening two games. Still looking to capture the European title for the first time, PSG were knocked out in the quarter-finals for the third straight time last season.

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“We are an ambitious club,” captain Thiago Silva told Spanish newspaper AS. “We have a very 
interesting project that includes lifting the Champions League.

“It’s the club’s aim and ours as well. We face an important game on Wednesday and all great players wants to showcase their talent in matches like this one.”

Les Parisiens, coached by Laurent Blanc, have only lost two of their last 12 home games against Spanish opposition. The last time, however, was a 3-1 defeat to Barcelona in the last eight of the 2014-15 competition.

Silva believes PSG are a much stronger side following the addition of Argentinian midfielder Angel Di Maria this summer from Manchester United.

Di Maria, who won the Champions League as a Real Madrid player in the 2013-14 campaign, has three goals and set up three more in eight games for PSG.

“Di Maria has made us better,” he said. “He has great physical qualities and has a wonderful ability to provide assists as well as scoring. He is very important to the team.”

PSG’s Brazilian defender David Luiz is sidelined with a knee injury and will be replaced by Marquinhos, who will partner Silva at the heart of defence.

“Luiz is essential for us but I know that Marquinhos has grown a lot and will be one of the best 
defenders in two years,” Silva said.

Real have won their last three meetings with French sides, scoring nine times and conceding no goals, but face a stern test this evening.

“I’m not sure PSG have a weak point,” Real Madrid midfielder Isco said. “They are a very good side, very strong and complete, but they’re going to be up against a Real Madrid team with plenty of strengths and a forward line that is very hard to deal with.

“We’re confident about getting a good result. I reckon it will be a low-scoring game but I hope it’s us who get the few goals.”

The Spanish giants, coached by Rafa Benitez, welcome back defender Sergio Ramos and midfielder Luka Modric from injury.

But forward Gareth Bale has joined injured players Pepe, Dani Carvajal, James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema on the sidelines.

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Double act: Javier Hernandez scores past Wojciech Szczesny.

Bayer Leverkusen snatched a dramatic late point in a 4-4 draw against Roma.

Javier Hernandez’s brace had put Leverkusen ahead after just 20 minutes, but Roma drew level before half-time as Daniele De Rossi struck twice, before the Italians scored twice more through Miralem Pjanic and Iago Falque to seemingly secure victory.

However, two Leverkusen goals in the last 10 minutes from Kevin Kampl and Admir Mehmedi capped off an exhilarating game and secured the Germans a dramatic share of the spoils.

Elsewhere, a Stefan Mitrovic own goal 18 minutes from time handed Valencia a vital 2-1 win over Gent. A strong start from Valencia was rewarded when a combination of Sofiane Feghouli and Gent defender Lasse Nielsen opened the scoring for the hosts from close range, but Gent went in level at the break thanks to a stunning strike from Thomas Foket.

However, a better second-half display from the Belgian champions was undone when Mitrovic turned Jose Luis Gaya’s effort into his own net.

In Russia, Zenit St Petersburg edged closer towards a place in the last 16 after a 3-1 home victory over Lyon in Group H.

Artem Dzyuba put Zenit ahead after just three minutes at the Stadion Petrovskiy.

Lyon pulled level shortly after half-time through Alexandre Lacazette but Hulk drilled home a trademark long-range strike to restore the lead for Zenit and Danny then ended any hopes of a Lyon comeback on 83 minutes.

Vincent Aboubakar netted his seventh goal of the season as Porto beat Maccabi Tel-Aviv 2-0 with Yacine Brahimi also on the scoresheet for the Group G leaders.

In Zagreb, Ideye Brown scored the only goal of the game as Olympiakos beat Dinamo 1-0.

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Arsenal are third in Group F but can still qualify.

Olivier Giroud came off the bench to help give Arsenal a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich and keep alive their Champions League hopes.

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The Germans had arrived at the Emirates Stadium in imperious form following a new Bundesliga record of nine consecutive victories and leaders of Group F with maximum points from two European ties.

However, Arsenal – who had lost their first two matches to sit bottom of the table – produced a resolute display and took the lead on 77 minutes when Giroud headed in after a mistake from goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who had earlier produced a brilliant save to deny Theo Walcott.

German playmaker Mesut Ozil scored a second in stoppage time to seal the win, his close-range effort given by the fifth official after Neuer had clawed the ball back from over the goalline.

The Gunners, though, still have it all to do to qualify for the knockout stages, and next travel to Munich in November.

Barcelona strengthened their position at the top of Champions League Group E as a brace from substitute Ivan Rakitic steered them to a comfortable 2-0 win at BATE Borisov.

After dominating the first half without being able to finish off any of the string of chances they created, the defending champions broke the deadlock in the 48th minute when Rakitic blasted a shot past Syarhey Chernik from Neymar’s tee-up.

The Barca pair then combined again in the 65th minute, Rakitic receiving Neymar’s pass and producing a cool finish to seal the victory.

It leaves the leaders with seven points from three games and with a place in the next round looking ever-more secure, while BATE stay third in the pool with three points.

Bayer Leverkusen and Roma battled out a 4-4 draw in a thrilling Champions League Group E clash in Germany that saw both sides produce remarkable comebacks.

The hosts had raced ahead early on thanks to a brace from Javier Hernandez, who scored from the penalty spot in the fourth minute, then tucked away another effort in the 19th.

But Daniele De Rossi drew the match level with a double of his own before half-time, striking in the 30th and 38th minutes.

Miralem Pjanic subsequently put Roma in front with a superb 55th-minute free-kick, and substitute Iago Falque appeared to settle things by making it 4-2 with 17 minutes to go.

However, Kevin Kampl pulled back a delightful goal in the 84th minute and two minutes later Admir Mehmedi – who Leverkusen had brought on as a substitute – notched a close-range equaliser.

Eden Hazard and Willian hit the woodwork as Chelsea were held to a goalless draw at Dynamo Kiev.

It was a vastly improved display, even on the win over Aston Villa, but Jose Mourinho’s men stayed third in Champions League Group G behind Porto and Dynamo, who remained unbeaten.

Vincent Aboubakar netted his seventh goal of the season as Porto beat Maccabi Tel-Aviv 2-0 to climb to the top of Champions League Group G.

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