Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc is confident his side can raise their game when they face Barcelona next month looking for the draw that will take them into the Champions League last 16 as Group F winners.
Both sides had already qualified for the knockout stage before recording wins on Tuesday, with PSG beating Ajax 3-1 at the Parc des Princes and Barcelona crushing APOEL Nicosia 4-0 in Cyprus with the help of a Lionel Messi hat-trick.
And the French champions are a point clear at the top of the section, meaning a draw at the Camp Nou in a fortnight will see them progress as winners of their group for the third season running and, in theory, set up a kinder draw in the next round.
A brace from Edinson Cavani either side of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic strike gave Paris their eighth straight win in all competitions and maintained their unbeaten record this season, and yet PSG were once again some way short of their very best against the Dutch champions.
“I think we came up against a team that played better football than us but were not that dangerous at the end of the day,” said Blanc, whose side were pegged back by a Davy Klaassen equaliser midway through the second half only for Ibrahimovic and Cavani to both score late on.
“The more clinical and dangerous team was PSG. It is the second time where the statistics have been against us in terms of possession (against Ajax) but we also need to be able to win games in situations like this.”
Of the impending clash with Barcelona, who PSG beat 3-2 at the Parc des Princes in a thrilling game in September, Blanc said: “For now let’s appreciate this win. We have games to play in the league between now and then.
“Between now and December 10, even though it’s not far away, we will improve. Barcelona will certainly make things difficult for us, like they did here, but we can make things difficult for them too and it will be a great match.”
– ‘Lack of concentration’ –
The sluggish nature of PSG’s performance left Ajax coach Frank de Boer disappointed that his side could not take advantage and he admitted that the Ligue 1 outfit will need to up their game at the Camp Nou.
“They have some players who maybe have some nonchalance in them, a lack of concentration at times,” said de Boer. “I think if they play against Barcelona like this it will be very difficult for them.”
However, PSG should have captain Thiago Silva and midfield trio Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti and Yohan Cabaye back from injury by then.
“We have injuries but we have to get on with it,” said Blanc. “Despite that we keep moving forward. The injured players will come back but they will need a few games to get back to their best level.”
Meanwhile, De Boer must lift his side for a home game with APOEL which will decide who takes third place and a berth in the Europa League, although he is set to be without captain Nicolai Boilesen with a serious-looking injury that forced him off early on and is likely to require an operation.
“I think sadly he will need an operation. I think he has damaged ligaments,” said De Boer. “It’s a shame that we made lots of errors and committed lots of silly fouls. It was very, very frustrating, but we did much better in the second half.” – Agence France-Presse