Pochettino wary of Barcelona as he continues seeking perfection at PSG

By Daniel Lewis 7 March 2021 78
Pochettino wary of Barcelona as he continues seeking perfection at PSG

Mauricio Pochettino is pleased with the progress made by Paris Saint-Germain since taking over but has warned his players they cannot take anything for granted against Barcelona next week.

The French giants eased to a 3-0 victory over Brest in the last 32 of the Coupe de France on Saturday to make it 12 wins, one draw and two defeats in Pochettino's first two months in place at the Parc des Princes.

That includes a run of three wins in a row in all competitions heading into Wednesday's Champions League last-16 second leg with Barca, which PSG lead 4-1 following an impressive display in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou.

No team in the history of the European Cup has ever progressed from a knockout tie over two legs after losing the first leg at home by a margin of three goals, but Pochettino is not looking ahead to the quarter-finals just yet.

"We take it match after match and look to win them all in each competition," Pochettino told Eurosport. "For us, this is an extraordinary challenge. 

"Next is the match with Barcelona. You have to be careful because they are a good team and we will have to remain focused."

Kylian Mbappe scored twice for PSG in their cup victory at Stade Francis-Le Ble, either side of Pablo Sarabia's strike, to keep the holders on course for a record-extending 14th triumph in the competition.

PSG had some nervy moments before Mbappe killed things off 17 minutes from time, with keeper Sergio Rico making seven saves in total, compared to three stops for opposite number Sebastien Cibois.

But Pochettino was happy with his side's display, and in particular the manner of their pressing in midfield - Leandro Paredes leading the way in that area with 12 turnovers in total.

"The pressing shows my style, yes. After two months of work, and some 15 games since I joined, it's starting to take shape," he said. "The players are listening to my ideas and the way I want us to play.

"Physically, I am also happy with the way the players work every day and we are approaching our best condition. We are always looking for perfection, but I am already happy on that side.

"The goal today was to win and qualify, so I'm happy with the performance. We gave away a few chances but Sergio was fantastic. We had to think a lot about this match and not the one on Wednesday."

Mbappe's second brace in as many matches took his tally for the season to 25 goals in 32 matches, the forward following up a sublime solo strike that saw him carry the ball half the length of the field with a somewhat fortunate goal with his chest.

"They are a team that are not easy to play at home," Mbappe said. "They play good football, so congratulations to them. 

"But we came here to qualify and that is what we did. Now we will prepare normally for the Barcelona game in a serene way, as we always do."

Thilo Kehrer was substituted at half-time by Pochettino, who later confirmed it was a precautionary measure.

Superstar forward Neymar is another player nursing an injury heading into the clash with former side Barca, but Abdou Diallo is hopeful his team-mate will make his comeback on Wednesday.

"He had a great session yesterday. We'll see how he feels. I hope he will be with us," Diallo said.

"As for Kehrer, we also have Timothee Pembele and [Colin] Dagba standing ready and we trust them."

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