Champions League | Gulf-money fuelled teams clash
The Champions League semifinal first leg encounter between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday is a meeting of two clubs desperate to win the European Cup for the first time after lavish Gulf investment in the teams.
Qatar-funded PSG did reach last season’s final, only to lose to Bayern Munich. Abu Dhabi-backed City has only ever made it to the semifinals once, losing in 2016 to Real Madrid before Pep Guardiola replaced Manuel Pellegrini.
Winning domestic trophies isn’t a problem for City, which arrives in Paris fresh from winning a fourth straight League Cup win and sixth in eight years.
PSG is close to full strength, with central defender Marquinhos resuming training at the end of last week after recovering from an adductor injury and midfield schemer Marco Verratti playing the full 90 minutes at the weekend.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino may consider attack the best form of defence and unleash top scorer Kylian Mbappe — who was declared fit for the match after a minor thigh injury scare — in a pure centre forward role, with Neymar and Angel Di Maria probing from the flanks.
Mbappe has netted 37 goals in all competitions so far this season, two less than his career best from two seasons ago and looks certain to hit the 40 mark.
Pochettino said on Tuesday that left back Juan Bernat and reserve goalkeeper Alexandre Letellier are the only players missing.
Guardiola will be relieved to have playmaker Kevin De Bruyne back to fitness, after he set up the only goal against Tottenham on Sunday from a trademark free kick.
“This is the second time we have got to the semifinals, so there is not much history for our club here,” Guardiola said.
Tonight’s match: PSG vs Manchester City, 12.30 a.m. (Thursday).
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