Manchester: European expansionists Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain resume their pursuit of new frontiers on Tuesday, with their Champions League quarter-final delicately balanced at 2-2 following last week's first leg.
Both clubs are fuelled by vast Middle Eastern wealth and both have landmarks in sight: For Qatar-backed PSG, a first semi-final appearance since 1995; for UAE-funded City, an unprecedented last-four berth.
Away goals by Kevin de Bruyne and Fernandinho at the Parc des Princes unexpectedly left City in the driving seat, but the attacking armada at PSG coach Laurent Blanc's disposal means that his counterpart Manuel Pellegrini will not instruct his side to sit on their advantage.
"I think that the most important aspect of this team is always to score," Pellegrini said. "We are working here for around three years and for three years I always have the same answer. It is a team that is prepared to score goals, a team that is prepared to play. If we think that tomorrow, we need to try to draw 0-0, I think that we are going to lose the game. It's not in the way we normally play. Tomorrow you will see the same team that you have seen the last two and a half seasons here."
With PSG having already successfully defended their Ligue 1 crown and on course to repeat last season's domestic quadruple, they were widely expected to get the better of City, who are 15 points behind leaders Leicester City in the Premier League.
But City seized the opportunities that came their way in Paris, going ahead via de Bruyne and then equalising through Fernandinho after a freak Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal and a close-range Adrien Rabiot effort appeared to have given Blanc's men control of the tie. The result was a major anti-climax for PSG, eliminated at this stage of the tournament for the past three seasons, and their disappointment was hardened by bookings for centre-back David Luiz and midfielder Blaise Matuidi, which ruled both players out of the second leg.
Marquinhos will deputise for his Brazilian compatriot Luiz, but Marco Verratti, sidelined for seven weeks with a groin injury, seems unlikely to step in for Matuidi.
City will also be bereft of vital experience in central defence, with Pellegrini declaring captain Vincent Kompany unavailable despite his return to training on Monday after a calf injury. In Kompany's absence, Eliaquim Mangala will continue to deputise alongside Nicolas Otamendi, who will play despite twisting his ankle in Saturday's 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion.
Raheem Sterling is out with a groin problem, while Samir Nasri is ineligible, but David Silva and Yaya Toure are both fit after recent lay-offs.
With Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and defending champions Barcelona in varying situations of peril in their own last-eight ties, the path to the final for Tuesday's victors could be less arduous than expected.
Both teams yearn for success in Europe, but with PSG starved of the international exposure that City take for granted in the Premier League, elimination would be a particularly bitter pill for them to swallow. "It's true that we've reached the quarter-finals three times. I understand the immense expectation, but if we reach the semi-finals, there will be expectation for the final," Blanc said. "And it won't stop until the day Paris Saint-Germain win the European Cup. That's a certainty, with or without me."
Manchester City come into the second leg with the upper hand, after holding the French giants 2-2 and grabbing two away goals at the Parc des Princes last week. Since then, Manuel Pellegrini's side have beaten West Bromwich Albion 2-1 at home in the Premier League on Saturday. That result allowed them to record back-to-back league wins for the first time since October and kept them clear of neighbours Manchester United in the battle to finish fourth in the Premier League and secure Champions League football next season.
PSG secured a fourth straight French title last month, so coach Laurent Blanc made wholesale changes for Saturday's trip to Guingamp and saw Lucas Moura score both goals in a 2-0 win. With the league wrapped up, the Champions League is the primary objective now for PSG, although they have a French Cup semi-final at Lorient and a League Cup final date against Lille to come later this month.
Published Date: Apr 12, 2016 03:55 pm | Updated Date: Apr 12, 2016 03:55 pm