Thomas Tuchel insists Real Madrid can provide perfect 'big-team' test for PSG

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Head coach Thomas Tuchel feels Paris Saint-Germain can use their opening Champions League fixture against Real Madrid to deliver a big team performance.

The two European heavyweights meet at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday night looking to lay down a marker in Group A.

Both sides, though, have been hit by their own selection worries, as PSG are without Brazil forward Neymar although he has seen his Champions League suspension reduced to two matches.

Despite the weight of expectation for an improvement on last season’s defeat to Manchester United in the last 16, German coach Tuchel is determined to take things one fixture at a time.

“Last year, we fell into a very strong group (with Liverpool and Napoli). It was a lot of pressure,” Tuchel said at a press conference.

“There is a lot to learn from a defeat. It was a very long phase after the defeat against Manchester United, but it is necessary to forget and look forward.

“The team have done that. We have a lot of changes, new players. But this is the first game, not a decisive match in the group.

“At the same time, it is a great opportunity to show you are capable of making a big team performance.

“Real Madrid are very strong, brave, they have won many times in the Champions League. I want to be aggressive, play fast.

“It’s our character to be active. I do not want to be too passive, we must take the ball to find solutions.”

Tuchel, though, insists there is no extra pressure being put on him by the club’s owners to make more inroads towards European glory this season.

“We never discussed with the president about that. My goal is to win tomorrow, that is clear. Then it is match after match,” he said.

Neymar’s punishment for social media comments made in the wake of PSG’s controversial 3-1 home defeat by Manchester United in March was reduced by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The former Barcelona forward was heavily linked with a summer move back to Spain, and was jeered by PSG supporters on his return to the team for Saturday’s 1-0 win over Strasbourg – which he secured with a stoppage-time overhead kick.

Tuchel wants to draw a line under the whole saga.

“Between me and Ney, everything is clear. The transfer market is finished, he is our player. It has never been a problem between me and my player,” the PSG coach said.

Zidane

Real Madrid shrugged off their own injury concerns – Croatia midfielder Luka Modric the latest absentee – with a 3-2 home win over Levante.

Head coach Zinedine Zidane is ready to take Wednesday’s match to the Ligue 1 leaders.

“We are happy to start another competition. We know that it is a complicated opponent, what we have to do, but we are ready for that,” said Zidane, who revealed Eden

Hazard could be involved after playing the last half-hour on Saturday.

“We are making a good start to the season, but of course it can be done better and we must improve at all levels.”

Karim Benzema scored twice against Levante, and Zidane believes the veteran France forward can again be a key player.

“He is scoring more, it is very decisive, but also he is a team player and I am more interested in that,” the Real Madrid coach said at a press conference.

“Maybe he will have a little more motivation because he is from Lyon, but I always love Benzema on my team.” 

Copy provided by Press Association Sport

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Champions League Group A preview: PSG favourites to finish top, Real Madrid will be second

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The top 32 teams from all of Europe are set to begin their quest for Champions League glory.

Given the competition is stacked with quality teams that are looking to make an early impact, there’s reason to be thrilled about the start of this season’s tournament.

We take a look at all the groups and make a prediction on the final standings. Here is Group A …

Paris Saint-Germain (France)

VerrattiMbappeNimes (1)

Manager: Thomas Tuchel

Although the Parisians have failed to qualify for the quarter-finals since Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the club in the 2015/16 season, they have never had problems making it to the knockouts of the competition.

Should PSG make it out of the group, they will do so for the eighth time in a row. Thomas Tuchel has one of the best attacks in Europe with Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi and Edinson Cavani at his disposal.

However, only Icardi will be available for what could be a decisive encounter against Madrid on match-day one. Mbappe and Cavani have been sidelined due to injury and Neymar will be serving a suspension for his comments on social media during the last edition.

The French side will find Madrid to be their biggest obstacle. A win over the 13-time European champions, their first against the opposition since 1994 should headline them as potential contenders at the end of the group stage games.

Key player: Neymar

Real Madrid (Spain)

EdenHazardRealMadrid (1)

Zinedine Zidane

Madrid have experienced a fall from grace ever since they won the in the 2017/18 season.

The Zinedine Zidane oversaw a historic ‘threepeat’ of Champions League titles before he announced his decision to leave the club. Madrid reappointed him as manager earlier this year after Santiago Solari’s side were knocked out by a young Ajax side in the last-16 stage.

Not much has changed on the field since then despite Madrid’s heavy investment in the transfer market.

Los Blancos boast a fiery attack with Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale leading the line and Vinicius Junior, Luka Jovic and Lucas Vasquez providing further options. This depth in quality in attack should carry them through the group comfortably.

However, failure to land any of Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen or Donny van de Beek could leave them short in an ageing midfield.

A 3-0 defeat to CSKA Moscow at the Santiago Bernabeu last season should work as a reminder for Madrid that no team can be taken lightly in this competition. Should they give Galatasaray as much as an inch, the Turkish side could take a mile and cause an unlikely upset.

Key player: Eden Hazard

Galatasaray (Turkey)

Galatasaray

Manager: Fatih Terim

Arguably the best side of Turkey for some time now, Galatasaray have shown no signs of replicating their domestic success in Europe. The 22-time Super Lig winners haven’t qualified for the knockout stages of the tournament since the 2012/13 season.

Last season, Galatasaray finished below Porto and Schalke in the group stage and qualified for the last-32 of the Europa League. But a 1-2 home defeat to Benfica sent them out of Europe much earlier than they would have expected.

The Turkish side made some key additions to their team in Jean Michael Seri, Emre Mor, Ryan Babel and Radamel Falcao as they attempt to make a statement in Europe. That the finals will be held in their home stadium in Istanbul should serve as added motivation for The Lions.

Given Real Madrid’s poor start to the season, Galatasaray will lurk behind to capitalise on any slip-up from the Spanish giants. A third-place finish and qualification to the Europa League knockout stage should be the minimum expectation, though.

Key player: Radamel Falcao.

Club Brugge (Belgium)

Hans Vanaken

Manager: Philippe Clement

Club Brugge are the underdogs of the group. They qualified by defeating Dynamo Kyiv 4-3 on aggregate in the third round and LASK Linz 3-1 on aggregate in the play-offs after finishing second in the Belgian first division.

Brugge have never been European champions but came tantalisingly close in 1978. Among recent European achievements, the Belgian side reached the quarter-final of the 2014/15 Europa League before going down against Ukranian club Dnipro.

Philippe Clement’s men are undoubtedly the minnows and a berth in the Europa League that accompanies a third place finish will be a good result.

Key player: Hans Vanaken

Prediction

1. PSG

2. Real Madrid

3. Galatasaray

4. Club Brugge

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Champions League Group B preview: Bayern Munich to top, Tottenham to finish runners-up

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I like what I see: Niko Kovac.

The top 32 teams from all of Europe are set to begin their quest for Champions League glory.

Given the competition is stacked with quality teams that are looking to make an early impact, there’s reason to be thrilled about the start of this season’s tournament.

We take a look at all the groups and make a prediction on the final standings. Here is Group B …

Bayern Munich (Germany)

Lewandowski

Manager: Niko Kovac

The Bavarians have been one of the most consistent teams in the Champions League in the 21st century. The last time they failed to make the knockouts was back in the 2002/03 edition when they did not win a single game in a group that also comprised Deportivo La Coruna, Lens and AC Milan.

Bayern were last crowned champions in the 2012/13 season after defeating rivals Borussia Dortmund in the final. Ever since, they have been bested by Spanish clubs, being eliminated by Atletico Madrid and Barcelona once and three times by Real Madrid. Last season they were sent packing in the last-16 by eventual champions Liverpool.

Bayern were active in the transfer market, roping in Lucas Hernandez, Philippe Coutinho, Benjamin Pavard and Ivan Perisic among others. Expect them to be a force to be reckoned with yet again. The tie against Spurs could be the decisive one in the group. Bayern are also much more consistent against weaker opposition than Spurs are and this could help their case.

Key player: Robert Lewandowski

Tottenham (England)

Son Heung-min and Harry Kane

Manager: Mauricio Pochettino

The runners-up of the 2018/19 season of the Champions League will look to better their performance last season and go all the way at Istanbul.

The North London side reinforced their weakest area from last season; the midfield. Giovani Lo Celso and Tanguy Ndombele were roped in to add depth in the centre of the park. While the former is slowly being eased into the starting line-up, the latter is already standing out as a key figure.

Spurs have not had a rosy start to their Premier League campaign, winning just one of their four games and are ninth in the table. But they have been resolute with their approach to European games in the past, as evidenced by how they qualified from a group that included Barcelona, Inter Milan, and PSV Eindhoven last season.

It’s only recently that the North London side have established themselves as regulars in the Champions League. This will be their fourth consecutive appearance in Europe’s top competition.

Spurs are an unpredictable side; they have the potential to shock the absolute best of Europe but can also falter in simpler games. Their performance against Olympiacos and Red Star Belgrade could determine whether they will win the group, given Bayern rarely slip against these teams.

Key Player: Harry Kane

Olympiacos (Greece)

FBL-EUR-C1-OLYMPIAKOS-BARCELONA

Manager: Pedro Martins

Having qualified to the group stage by making it through three rounds, Olympiacos will be an interesting team to watch. The Greek side finished second in the league last season and had to defeat Viktoria Plzen, Istanbul Basaksehir and Krasnodar to make it to the last-32.

That they conceded just one goal and scored 13 in the six games shows that there is no room for complacency from the big teams in this group. The last time they featured in the competition (2017/18), Olympiacos famously held Barcelona to a goal-less draw at home.

The Greek side usually features in the Europa League and a berth in the last-32 of the competition following a third-place finish in the group stage will be a good result. But the long-term injury to star player Konstantinos Fortounis is a concern.

Key player: Mady Camara

Red Star Belgrade (Serbia)

Red Star

Manager: Vladan Milojevic

Last season, Red Star Belgrade managed something very few teams in the Champions League and Premier league did – inflict defeat on eventual European Champions Liverpool. Sadly, that was their only win of the group stages as they finished fourth.

The Serbian side edged Sudava Marijampole and HJK Helsinki by one-goal margins in the first two qualification rounds, before defeating Copenhagen on penalties and Young Boys on away goals to qualify for the main event. That they made it to the group stages two years in a row says a lot about their conviction.

Belgrade are undoubtedly the minnows of the group but they could complicate matters by surprising a big team in front of their intimidating home crowd. The Serbian side did so last season and Liverpool would surely acknowledge their ability to spring a surprise.

Key player: Milan Pavkov

Prediction:

1. Bayern Munich

2. Tottenham

3. Olympiacos

4. Red Star Belgrade

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