Blanc: We won't take Bayer lightly
Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc insisted his team would not be taking their Champions League last-16 tie with Bayer Leverkusen lightly.
Having avoided heavyweights such as Manchester City and Arsenal in Monday's draw at UEFA HQ in Nyon, a smiling Blanc, 48, faced the media at PSG's training centre. However, he urged his audience and his squad to keep their expectations in check.
"When you see the first game that came out...Wow! There are only big ties," said the PSG boss referring to the City vs. Barcelona clash.
"But don't believe that this game is going to be taken lightly. We avoided City, the big threat in the draw along with Arsenal... We're going to prepare in just the way we have to. A last-16 tie has to be prepared very professionally, we'll do that and I think all the clubs are going to do that, so it's nothing exceptional that we're doing.
"We'll have a lot of respect for them, we're going to study them, there's still time to do that. I'm perhaps going to watch the German league a little more than usual. We knew there would be some big teams up against each other. We're one of them, and I think Bayer are also a big team."
After soaring through the group stage, PSG -- who will travel to Germany for the first leg -- will start favourites against Sami Hyypia's men in the first-ever competitive encounter between the two clubs.
"We have to be wary of them. I know they're in a great league, the teams battle a lot. German teams are tough to play against, they defend well, and they play good football so we have to be careful," PSG's teenage midfielder Adrien Rabiot, 18, said. "It's an important match. We know anything can happen, we have to be vigilant, and the coach will put us on our guard before the game."
Meanwhile, Leverkusen are looking forward to their tie after the Bundesliga side, who will finish the year ranked second, had hoped to avoid the three Spanish sides.
“Paris have an outstanding team with a lot of world class players,” Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voeller told the club’s website. “They not only have Ibrahimovic, but also Cavani, Lavezzi, Thiago Silva, Lucas or Pastore are all exceptional players. But we want to take that little chance we have with full force.”
Leverkusen CEO Michael Schade was also thrilled with the draw. “We are looking forward to Paris. Saint-Germain are not only a special attraction because we have never played against this opponent. It’s also a great draw for our fans. Paris is a wonderful city and not too far away.
“Paris are an absolute top team with an outstanding Ibrahimovic. We certainly are huge outsiders in this duel.”
“They have a different budget. But we have shown that we can succeed against teams, who are better off financially. The games have to be played first,” Leverkusen midfielder Stefan Reinartz said.
“There were no easy teams in that draw. All our possible opponents belonged to the top class of European football. Now it’s PSG,” captain Simon Rolfes added. “That’s a huge task for us. We are looking forward to those games.”