Eliaquim Mangala: Zlatan Ibrahimovic doesn’t scare me

Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala claims Zlatan Ibrahimovic does not scare him as he prepares to face up to the formidable Paris St Germain frontman.

Eliaquim Mangala: Zlatan Ibrahimovic doesn’t scare me

The pressure will be on Mangala, who has endured a troubled season, as City tackle the French champions in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at the Parc des Princes tonight.

With captain Vincent Kompany still out injured, France centre-back Mangala and partner Nicolas Otamendi will need to deal with the threat of the prolific Ibrahimovic.

The Sweden striker has scored 30 goals in 26 appearances in Ligue 1 this season, including a hat-trick against Nice last weekend, and a further four in the Champions League.

But Mangala said: “I respect PSG, I respect Zlatan, (Edinson) Cavani and (Angel) Di Maria, but I am not scared of them.

“Everyone knows Zlatan and the magnificent career and season he has had. Even though he is 34 he is in top condition at the moment.

“He has been criticised a lot because he has not been decisive in the Champions League in the past, but he has been in the last few games. He is reaching the peak of his career now.

“But we are not just focusing on him.”

Parallels have been drawn between City and PSG with both clubs having been propelled towards the European elite by the extraordinary expenditure of investors from Gulf states.

The progress both clubs have made in recent years has been huge although so far PSG, who have established almost total domestic dominance in France and reached four successive Champions League quarter-finals, have the edge.

City, who have won two Premier League titles but are playing in the last eight for the first time, are determined to keep pace and see themselves as equals of the French champions.

Mangala said: “They (the City hierarchy) consider Paris as a very impressive team with a good project, one that is progressing, so this is why this is a very important match tomorrow against a big team.”

City, who look certain to lose Yaya Toure this summer, have faltered in the Premier League this season and are facing a battle to hold onto a top-four place, rather than fighting for the title as they had hoped.

Mangala is well aware of the pressure on the team heading into the PSG clash, as well as that on himself after an indifferent — albeit injury-hit — campaign.

The 25-year-old said: “I have been out four and a half months and the injury was difficult for me but I am playing now and it’s up to me to perform.

“Tomorrow as a game is very important for me, and the team.”

City are boosted by the return of goalkeeper Joe Hart, who has made a quicker than expected recovery from the calf injury suffered in the derby loss to Manchester United on March 20.

Manager Manuel Pellegrini said: “Joe has worked without any problems in the last days. He doesn’t have any problems to play.”

For his part, Laurent Blanc believes PSG are more advanced than City in Champions League terms — but rubbished suggestions his side’s quarter-final is straightforward.

Blanc said: “Manchester City had the same project a bit before Paris St Germain. They managed to win their domestic league, which is not an easy task and some other titles, but maybe in Europe maybe they’re a bit behind us.

“Maybe this shows what Paris St Germain have achieved is not as easy as it looks. But I’m a bit bored of these questions. Even the French media are asking is Ligue 1 as strong in terms of intensity.

“Maybe there’s a case but it’s not all about intensity. Maybe England is more competitive but I don’t see many English teams in the semi-finals of the European competitions over the last five or six years.

“Maybe they have reached a further level in terms of fatigue. You need to find a right balance. There are problems in every domestic league.”

PSG have already wrapped up their domestic title, having secured the Ligue 1 crown for a fourth successive year with nine games to spare.

Their form on the home front contrasts with that of City but Blanc said: “When we drew Manchester City we were quite happy to avoid the two ‘ogres’ of European football that are Bayern Munich and Barcelona. We may add a third one in Real Madrid.

“But I have the impression the media and the supporters of Paris St Germain think this is an easy draw. Let’s not get into that. I gave a speech to the players where I said do not listen to people who are saying that, they don’t know anything about football.

“They have great individual players. We are preparing ourselves for two very difficult games.”

Blanc confirmed former United forward Angel di Maria is fit to face City this week having been rested at the weekend as a precaution over a knock sustained on recent international duty.

PSG:

Trapp; Marquinho, Luiz, Silva, Maxwell; Rabiot, Motta, Matuidi; Cavani, Ibrahimovic, di Maria.

Manchester City:

Hart; Zabaleta, Mangala, Otamendi, Clichy; Fernandinho, Nasri; Silva, Navas, De Bruyne; Aguero.

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