Odair Fortes says Reims will not visit the Parc des Princes as “tourists” when they travel to Ligue 1 champions-elect Paris Saint-Germain.
Hubert Fournier’s men head to the capital on Saturday on the back of a strong season that could yet see them finish in the top six, although hopes of European qualification now appear slim.
However, Reims face undoubtedly their stiffest test of the campaign against a PSG side that is all-but assured of a second straight French crown following a remarkable season in which they have lost just one league game.
Despite that record, Laurent Blanc’s men have been unconvincing in recent 1-0 wins at Lorient and Nice, but they still hold a 13-point lead at the summit over second-placed Monaco.
And the defending champions should head into this game with plenty of confidence after defeating Chelsea 3-1 in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
PSG, who are set to be without influential striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, hammered Reims 3-0 in the reverse fixture in November and will be expected to complete a league double over the six-time French champions.
But Fortes insists that Fournier’s men are determined to spring a surprise in a game that he believes represents the equivalent of a Champions League clash for Reims.
“We will play in our Champions League,” Fortes told L’Union L’Ardennais.
“It will be difficult, we do not hide from that. This game is eagerly awaited. We go to the Parc to get a result. Win or draw.
“PSG has dominated Ligue 1. This is an impressive team in all areas. Ibrahimovic is often mentioned, but we forget the others, all as strong as each other.
“But we’re not going there as tourists.”
Seventh-placed Reims have claimed some impressive victories on the road this season, with three of their five away wins coming against Lille, Marseille and Lyon.
In PSG, though, they will face a side that has turned the Parc des Princes into fortress over the last year, having not lost a league game at home since November 2012.
The hosts will be without the suspended Marco Verratti and the injured Gregory van der Wiel, who has a knee problem, while Ibrahimovic is unlikely to feature after pulling up with an apparent muscle strain against Chelsea.
And with the second leg against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge taking place just three days later, Blanc will likely shuffle his pack as PSG aim to edge closer to a fourth French title.
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