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Apr 1, 2014

Zlatan: Chelsea 'super favourites'

PSG head coach Laurent Blanc believes the club are seeing the best of striker Zlatan Ibrahimović this season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic insists Chelsea will face a better Paris Saint-Germain team than they would have last year in Wednesday's quarterfinal.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his goal.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic says Paris Saint-Germain have improved in the last year.

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Ibrahimovic, 32, will be the spearhead of PSG's attack when they step out at the Parc des Princes to take on the 2012 European champions in the first leg of their last-eight tie.

The French title holders fell to Barcelona at the same stage of last season's competition, but Ibrahimovic told reporters PSG have become a stronger unit in the last 12 months.

"There's a big difference between our team from last year," he said. "It's the second year we're playing together, we're a lot better now. We know each other better. There are new players who have arrived, but some of them have taken on a lot of responsibility. Collectively, we are better. Last year, everything was new, we played more individually. Now we know each other a lot better. We're better as a team."

Many believe Ibrahimovic himself is playing the best football of his career. Along with a division-high 25 Ligue 1 goals, the Sweden international has struck ten times in European club football's premier competition, second only to Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo. The former AC Milan forward believes PSG represent his best chance of adding a so far elusive Champions League winner's medal to his trophy cabinet.

"I think the biggest opportunity for me to win the Champions League is with Paris, because it's my last contract in Europe. Once I reach the end of my contract, I'll either step down a level or I'll retire. That's still a long way off," Ibrahimovic, who signed a one-year extension taking him through to 2016 only last summer, added.

"We're in the quarterfinals, and we're playing against a fantastic team. We have nothing to lose and we are quite new to this competition while Chelsea have been there for the last ten years. They have won the Europa League, the Champions League, they're a very good team. Chelsea are a big club. It'll be very exciting. I think Chelsea are the super favourites."

While Ibrahimovic will be the focal point of a high-octane PSG forward line also including Edinson Cavani and -- most likely -- Ezequiel Lavezzi, Chelsea will be shorn of Samuel Eto'o due to a tendon injury. Laurent Blanc, 48, will also have Thiago Silva available with the Brazi centre-back wearing a protective mask over a facial fracture.

The former AC Milan defender was outstanding against Barca last season, but Blanc hopes his captain will have fewer opportunities to shine this time round with the hosts dictating play.

"Whether it's Chelsea or PSG, we'll play with our philosophy," he said. "If we start being afraid of counter-attacks, we'll go against our natural game. Yes, Chelsea love counter-attacks and counter-attacking. We have to be strong defensively.

"We have to try to score goals, but we must not concede. We won't change our way of playing. Otherwise, we'd play with 11 men behind the ball, and that isn't our way of playing."

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