Soccer

PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino claims ‘history is history,’ about club’s past collapse against Barcelona

Head coach Mauricio Pochettino has confessed that Tuesday’s crunch UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg with Barcelona feels like a special clash despite only having been in the job for just over a month.

“It is true that this game is special,” he said. “I only signed 40 days or so ago, but you can feel that it is an important match. Winning the Champions League is a clear goal for PSG.”

Pochettino is unfussed about returning to Camp Nou where the Remontada took place back in 2017 as Barca came back to win 6-5 on aggregate after an improbable 6-1 win on the night.

“I am very calm,” said the former Tottenham Hotspur boss. “History is history for us, and the reality is different with a different group. The past cannot be erased but we must build a better future. The whole squad is focused on building something better — that is our goal.”

Marco Verratti is one of the survivors of that capitulation and the Italy international is back in the squad after picking up a hip injury in the recent win away at Olympique de Marseille in Le Classique and Pochettino is waiting to see how he looks in the final training session.

“We are going little by little,” he said. “We need to take a look at Marco in training, which will not be too demanding. We have a strategy and game plan depending on his form. We will make a decision.”

Pochettino has been delighted with his star-studded squad since arriving and praised their collective strength and willingness to adapt to new methods.

“I have found a fantastic team, incredibly open mentally,” he said. “They follow our instructions to build and identity together. Our idea is to create an identity that shows what PSG represent. The players are all friends and love being together.”

Looking at Barca, Pochettino recognized that opposite number Ronald Koeman needed time to turn things around from when he arrived while Paredes insisted that there are no favorites.

“With a new coach, you need time to get the project going,” said the PSG boss. “After eight months, Barca have come a long way under Koeman. With COVID and injuries, the reality is different, and it makes sense that a new coach needs time. His team is now stronger.”

“I do not know if there is a favorite,” added midfielder Leandro Paredes about a fixture that Barca have shaded in recent years. “Both teams play good football, and both will find it tough.”

CBS Sports sources understand that Verratti is expected to start after proving his fitness in training on Monday evening with a full session.



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