Emery confident PSG can punish Madrid men

PSG boss Unai Emery is happy his side have been drawn to face Real Madrid . (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2017
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Emery confident PSG can punish Madrid men

LONDON: Real Madrid have been handed a nightmare tie in the second round of the Champions League with the defending champions being drawn to fave favorites Paris Saint-Germain.
The side from the French capital were easily the most impressive side from the group stages winning their first five matches, scoring 24 goals and conceding just one before a final-round defeat at Bayern Munich.
Real, on the other hand, looked far from their imperious best, finishing second to Tottenham. That patchy form in Europe has been replicated at home with the Madrid men currently lying fourth in La Liga, some eight points off arch-rivals Barcelona.
That has seemingly informed PSG boss Unai Emery’s claim that his side easily have enough class to see off the defending champions.
“I don’t think it’s the worst draw possible. I think we are of a level where we can play against Real Madrid,” said Emery.
“If you want to do something big in the Champions League you have to play against the best sides. I think these matches will be the centre of the footballing world when they come around.”
The tie will be the first meeting of the sides since the 2015-16 group stage, when Madrid won 1-0 at the Bernabeu after a 0-0 draw in Paris.
“I have lots of friends in Madrid; I know Real Madrid well too, having watched a lot of their matches. I know what the atmosphere is like there,” said Spaniard Emery.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for us. I am sure the team will be in perfect shape when the tie comes around.”
The other standout tie sees Chelsea come up against Barcelona. The Catalan club have once again looked impressive both at home and in Europe while Chelsea, after a good start which saw them win away at Atletico Madrid, finished second to Roma in Group C.
But if Chelsea fans are looking for some crumbs of comfort then they need look no further than the stats that have them unbeaten in their past seven games against Barca, winning five and drawing two. Added to that is the fact Lionel Messi has never scored in eight appearances against the Blues — it is his worst record against a team in his career.
Elsewhere Tottenham have seen their topping of Group H rewarded with a tie against Italian giants Juventus, and second favorites Manchester City handed a clash against Basel.
First legs will be played on Feb. 13/14 and 20/21, with second legs on Mar 6/7 and 13/14.


‘We want to make Saudi Arabia proud’: Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

Updated 22 June 2018
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‘We want to make Saudi Arabia proud’: Pizzi promises better showing against Egypt

  • Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday
  • Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious

ROSTOV-ON-DON: “Keeping possession of the ball seems to be the absolute and most important thing, but then when you sometimes find issues in getting the ball into your opponent’s half, you have to find other movements and ways of doing that,” said Oscar Tabarez after watching his lackluster Uruguay rely on a solitary Luis Suarez goal to eliminate Saudi Arabia from the World Cup. 
Tabarez was talking about his own team’s struggles, yet the assessment is considerably more applicable to the Green Falcons, who dominated possession and retained the ball with ease in midfield, yet for the second match running looked absolutely bereft of ideas in the final third. With Uruguay and Russia now on six points, Saudi Arabia cannot progress from Group A even if they defeat Egypt in their final game on Monday.
The Green Falcons coach Juan Antonio Pizzi confirmed he intends to stay at the helm of the side for the long-haul, yet is only too aware that the potential of this team is being hamstrung by its inability to score. He called it “our weakness”, adding that his side enjoyed “good ball possession, but no effectiveness”. They, he said, did not have the sufficient “weapons or tools” to equalize.
Pizzi’s side have found the net now just twice in their past five games and against Uruguay managed only three shots on target in 90 minutes — two of which came in added time and were so tame they would hardly have troubled the opposition goalkeeper Fernando Muslera had he been relaxing at his far post sipping a drink. In the 5-0 defeat to Russia last week, they failed to muster a single shot on target. 
Wednesday’s overall performance was much improved, yet a lack of penetrative passing was obvious. One passage of play in the opening exchanges saw Saudi Arabia complete 16 passes untroubled without the ball entering the opposition penalty box. When Uruguay finally won possession, they required only four quick exchanges to find Edinson Cavani on the left wing drilling the ball across the front of goal. 
“I don’t share that assessment,” said Pizzi, when it was put to him that his team was too slow to attack. “We played at the speed that was necessary. We need to be accurate, but if you step up the speed you lose accuracy with your passes. We had control of the game and that was why.”
Striker Mohammed Al-Sahlawi had been the focal point of much criticism from Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of Saudi’s General Sports Authority, after the Russia “fiasco” and was dropped from the side against Uruguay. So too was goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, another who Al-Sheikh name-checked as having been at fault.
Pizzi, asked whether the scathing assessment from his bosses had forced his hand when it came to team selection, calmly dismissed the suggestion. He also ruled out the notion that administrative issues between the players and the country’s football federation had caused unrest in his squad.
“I have a list of 23 players here and they are all available to play. We are here together and pushing in the same direction. 
“I wanted — and still want — to make the Saudi Arabian people feel proud of our energy and the desire we show in matches. Unfortunately we were unable to do that against Russia and will be playing our next match without any hope of progressing. I hope now they will feel a little more proud even though we are out of the World Cup,” he said.