PSG's Edinson Cavani keen to calm Champions League expectations ahead of Real Madrid clash

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Striker Edinson Cavani believes Paris St Germain are still growing and should not be under pressure to win the Champions League.

The runaway Ligue 1 leaders face Real Madrid on Wednesday in the first leg of their stand-out last-16 tie but Cavani has attempted to play down expectations.

He told Spanish newspaper Marca: “I believe it is unnecessary that a club like PSG has the obligation to win the Champions League at all costs, regardless of their signings.

“I think there is a story, a myth, created around the Champions League. Of course, it is the greatest of all competitions but for me, the league is very important – it is the result of a whole year’s work.

“This game at the Bernabeu is another step in the growth of the club in recent years. We want to be better each year and continue to grow with the club.”

Big-spending PSG memorably lost to Barcelona at the same stage last season, winning the first leg 4-0 before Neymar – now with the French club following world record £198million move – inspired Barca to a 6-1 win in the second.

Cavani said: “We lost an incredible match but that played a part in the journey of the club. We lost and learned.

“In 98 per cent of the matches you lose, it is because the opposition were better or you were not at your best.
“The match against Barcelona is one where you ask ‘what happened?’, but it is no use going back over it.”

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Harry Kane is Champions League class but jury still out on Tottenham

Chris Bailey 12/02/2018
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Harry Kane added another clipping to his scrapbook after vanquishing Arsenal in Saturday’s derby, but towards the front, there are a few spare pages waiting to be filled.

If scoring goals is all that Kane cared about then it’d already be full to the brim. It’s just all a little too similar at the moment.

What the world’s best striker truly wants is a picture or two of him with a toothy grin and a trophy in his hands that isn’t a golden boot or another personal trinket.

If he doesn’t accomplish that desire with England – ha! – then Tottenham are his only outlet. And he may just begin to realise the futility of that if Spurs do not make an impact in the Champions League over the course of their round-of-16 tie with Juventus.

If Europe’s most lethal striker draws a blank and Tottenham tumble out at this stage there will still be no questions of his class.

Spurs fans like to joke that he’s a ‘four-season wonder’, given the long-held expectation by the cynics that an unremarkable lad from Essex must surely run out of steam before long. Well, he runs on renewables, given the 131 goals he has so far scored in a lilywhite shirt by the age of 24.

The question marks instead linger over a section of north London that starts in Wembley and ends back at White Hart Lane.

Spurs, as far as first XIs go, are the match of most in the world. Hugo Lloris, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane; no team would want for a more solid spine. Christian Eriksen, Son Heung-min and Dele Alli, on his day, pack some mighty fine muscle up front too.

It is the greatest team in Tottenham’s history that has yet to win anything. But therein lies a warning – the second-greatest team in Tottenham’s history, in which Ossie Ardiles, Chris Waddle and Clive Allen tormented defenders 30 years ago, never won anything either.

This current incarnation has stuck together for longer and though from one side the future looks promising, the other looks worryingly murky.

Tottenham cannot compete with Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid et al in the financial stakes yet, thanks to the efforts of Mauricio Pochettino, they can afford to not afford and still keep hold of their coat-tails.

A bigger problem is their new stadium, which in theory will generate more revenue but in the short-term threatens to bog  progress down.

According to reports late last year, projected costs have spiralled from an initial £400m to £1bn and chairman Daniel Levy will have to rely on a mix of advance hospitality sales, naming rights and debt to cover the increased burden.

It can only mean less money available to strengthen the squad and in a world in which Manchester City can buy a defender that they don’t really need for a cool £53m in January, this is not the time to be frugal.

TURIN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 12: Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur speaks to the media during the press conference at Allianz Stadium on February 12, 2018 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Mark of a Champion: Harry Kane has scored six times in the Champions League already this year.

Meanwhile, Kane is happy. With a caveat. When asked what Tottenham must do to keep him that way recently, he stated: “I’ve always said: keep progressing, keep getting better, we want to start winning trophies. That’s the aim, as long as the club keep doing that then, yeah I’m happy here.”

For a team that last lifted silverware a decade ago, any trophy would surely be a start. The League Cup may be a poxy little trophy in some people’s eyes but to Kane, a first senior trophy of any kind would be fulfilling. What happened this year? A 3-2 loss at Wembley to a rudderless West Ham in the fourth round, a game that Kane was ‘rested’ for.

Even beating a minnow in the FA Cup has proven a struggle this season. Newport County, a team three tiers below Tottenham in England, were eight minutes away from knocking them out before Kane’s intervention. That goal probably won’t make the scrapbook.

From Newport to Turin on Tuesday. Juventus have kept 15 clean sheets in their last 16 matches and it is not a challenge that will faze Kane.

After all, he was made for this stage – now what about Tottenham?

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Man City have nothing to fear in Champions League as Basel are no longer a bogey side

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Basel in training on Monday ahead of their Champions League date with Manchester City.

St Jakob-Park is an arena to make Premier League clubs shudder.

Bloodied noses have been given to them with abandon in the Champions League by Basel, a side capable of regularly making light of the financial disparity at play when the English are in town.

Manchester City are the latest moneyed opponents to head to Switzerland for Tuesday’s round-of-16 opener. Are the omens still so negative, or have this bogey side lost their lustre?

Manchester United were beaten 1-0 to little ill effect earlier this season, although the ramifications for 2011/12’s 2-1 reversal were more severe. They failed to advance past the groups for just the third time in 17 years and lost inspirational captain Nemanja Vidic to a serious knee injury he would never truly recover from.

A certain Mohamed Salah helped down Chelsea in November 2013. His – other – future employers Liverpool stuttered to a damaging 1-0 loss in October 2014 and played out a memorable 3-3 draw all the way back in November 2002.

All results to make manager Pep Guardiola take notice, despite the protective shield provided by a runaway 16-point lead in the Premier League and the European elite’s best away-win ratio of 80 per cent.

But this is not a vintage Basel. Not by a long stretch.

Emerging Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji was sold to Borussia Dortmund in January. No defenders were bought as replacements.

Instead, the clock was turned back for old boys such as Fabian Frei and Valentin Stocker – a duo last seen making little impression in the Bundesliga. A sign of desperation?

The eight-time successive Swiss Super League holders sit five points off the pace this time, trailing in Young Boys’ wake. Lugano stormed their St Jakob-Park fortress when the long winter break ended earlier this month.

The walls have also been crumbling in Europe. They have won just three of their last ten home matches, with four losses in that run.

Even if City’s superstars – somehow – come unstuck, home wins against Porto and Bayern Munich in Basel’s previous round-of-16 forays were followed by away losses to a combined score of 11-0.

Guardiola can sleep easy.

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