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Blanc demands focus from PSG

Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc hopes his team can maintain their motivation levels late in the season.

The Ligue 1 leaders have moved eight points clear after just one league loss in 28 matches, and with a goal difference (plus 49) more than double the next best (Monaco with plus 24).

Blanc’s side could be forgiven for focusing on the UEFA Champions League, in which they qualified for the quarter-finals with a 6-1 aggregate win over Bayer Leverkusen completed on Wednesday.

While Blanc said there was potential for his players to lose concentration, he hopes they understand there is still work to do.

“It (motivation) is always there for every game. There is always a risk…and this is the case in all the clubs. It takes focus and preparation for matches,” he said ahead of PSG’s league clash against Saint-Etienne on Sunday.

“This is not the time to let go, and I think the players are aware.”

The fourth-placed Saint-Etienne are fighting for European qualification this season and have already troubled PSG throughout the campaign.

Blanc’s team needed extra-time to get past them in the Coupe de La Ligue round of 16 in December and the league meeting earlier this season saw PSG come from behind to draw 2-2.

The former France coach said he was looking forward to the encounter.

“I think Saint-Etienne are a very good team. They have not only troubled Paris this season, but many teams,” Blanc said.

“This explains their place in the standings. This will be an interesting match…this game is eagerly awaited.”

Blanc may be without midfielder Marco Verratti, who will need to prove his fitness at training on Saturday.

Dutch defender Gregory van der Wiel (knee) is set to return from Germany, where he was being treated, but is unlikely to play.

Sunday’s match will see PSG midfielder Blaise Matuidi take on his former club after the 26-year-old left Saint-Etienne for Paris in July 2011.

Blanc said Matuidi had made a lot of progress on a technical level since joining PSG.

“He has made great strides. I remember the player he was at Troyes and Saint-Etienne. When I was at Bordeaux (between 2007 and 2010), we wanted to recruit him,” Blanc said.

“In recent years, and especially since his arrival in Paris, he has made progress on a technical level.”

Sat 15 March, 2014
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