‘Optimistic’ Unai Emery: PSG’s win ‘bodes well’ ahead of Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery has declared himself “optimistic” ahead of next Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid and feels his players are “ready” after beating Troyes 2-0 away on Saturday.
Angel Di Maria and Christopher Nkunku both scored as PSG ran out winners at Stade de l’Aube to remain 14 points clear in Ligue 1, and speaking after the match, Emery admitted he feels like everything is falling into place for the round-of-16 second leg against Madrid — even without injured superstar Neymar.
“The most important thing was to win,” said Emery. “I was not thinking about injuries, only about the match — it is an important victory for our confidence.
“It is good to have avoided conceding a goal. I think we are ready for next Tuesday. The team put on a serious display. It bodes well for the game against Real.
“If the players who stayed in Paris are also on form come Tuesday, it is perfect — I am an optimist.”
Speaking with journalists in the mixed zone after the victory, Thiago Motta stated his belief that PSG have a team that can “rival” Real and win next week.
“The most important thing is the team,” the Italian veteran said. “This is a very, very important match for the club — the team that will be on the pitch will be the best of the moment.
“We know how to handle that pressure. We know that we are up against an historic opponent, and that we need to overturn the deficit. The first leg was a bit complicated at the end.
“We have a team to rival Real. We will give everything. The team is our strength.”
Thomas Meunier played the full 90 minutes in Troyes and said he was pleased with what he saw as a “merciless and pitiless” performance from an under-strength PSG.
“The objective is to get Ligue 1 done and dusted as quickly as possible,” Meunier said. “Here, we upped the pressure on the other title challengers.
“We have to be merciless and pitiless. We had a few difficulties at the start of the game, but overall, we were quite good.
“PSG also gives its youngsters a chance, and that is a good thing. It is a reward for the youth academy. We saw that with Timothy [Weah] and Christopher [Nkunku], who scored, and I am not forgetting Adrien [Rabiot], Alphonse [Areola] and Presnel [Kimpembe]. It is a positive point.”
Goalkeeper Areola returned from injury to keep a clean sheet in Troyes and recognised that there is an expectation that PSG recover against Real in the Champions League next week.
“We were focussed from start to finish,” Areola said. “We played well, and we were clinical up front, that is good.
“There is a very important game coming up for us and the club. We had to be good and focussed to be ready for next week.
“Everyone expects us to pull it off, so it is up to us to play our cards right.”
Youth academy graduate Nkunku grabbed himself a goal and the Frenchman was delighted with his effort and thanked Dani Alves for the assist.
“It is a win that gives us a bit more confidence,” Nkunku said. “We really wanted to win, and it allows us to approach the Real game well. It wasn’t an easy match, but we were able to win 2-0.
“For my goal, Dani won the ball down the right, and I know he likes to play it in behind the defence. I did not hurry and placed the ball well. I am very happy.”
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.