Chantome: Our eyes are on Barca
Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Clement Chantome admits Carlo Ancelotti's squad are struggling to keep their minds on Ligue 1 with their Champions League quarter-final against Barcelona fast approaching.
The French capital has been in a frenzy ever since PSG were paired with Barca, who will play at a sold-out Parc des Princes on Tuesday for the first leg of their last-eight tie.
However, the stadium in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower will first host Ligue 1 champions Montpellier on Friday - a game which Chantome acknowledges as having been somewhat forgotten, despite its significance to the league leaders' domestic ambitions.
"I don't think we've ever had as many calls to get tickets for the [Barca] game as we did after the draw. In the street, people talk to us only about that. They even forget that there's the league," Chantome, whose side have a five-point cushion over second-placed Lyon, told the press.
"It's quite exceptional, and everyone's enjoying it. We're really looking forward to the game, but we mustn't forget that there's Montpellier first. I'm not going to lie, in the dressing-room, everyone's thinking of Barcelona, but the most important game is still Montpellier."
With Tito Vilanova's men on the horizon, Ancelotti is likely to exploit the strength in depth of his squad. Although Zlatan Ibrahimovic was given permission to miss Sweden's friendly in Slovakia on Tuesday, Ligue 1's leading scorer may well sit out most if not all of Friday's game now that he is available to face his former club in the Champions League after his two-game suspension was halved by UEFA.
"He's a great player. It's important to be able to count on players in a team with that sort of experience, that charisma," Chantome said. "That gives confidence to others. Of course it changes the complexion of the first leg."
Having overturned a 2-0 first-leg deficit to crush AC Milan in such convincing style in the last round, Barca will undoubtedly remain confident they can progress regardless of the outcome in Paris.
However, former Arsenal and France international midfielder Robert Pires believes the Catalan giants will find the going tougher if the PSG squad are as conscious of their own strengths as they are of those of their opponents.
"PSG need to be aware that they have stepped up a level and are capable of matching Barcelona, even if it'll be difficult. It's going to be an interesting match, and a very good test. We'll see how the team reacts," Pires told Sport365 TV.
"Fortunately PSG will have something to say in the matter. Otherwise, it's better to stay at home and not turn up on the pitch. The most important thing in this two-legged tie is what happens in the first game at the Parc des Princes. It's generally in that game in which qualification is decided."
While Ibrahimovic will feature against Barca and possibly sit out the Montpellier clash, the opposite could be said of David Beckham. The former England captain's five-day trip to China during the international break raised eyebrows and drew some criticism, but Chantome insists none of it was coming from inside the PSG dressing-room.
"David's settled in really well. There's no problem with him. He has obligations, and we don't worry about that," he said. "He sorted everything out with the staff. When he came back, he slipped back into things well. He's a great professional who knows himself very well and is always in great shape."