PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino names the 'team to beat' in Champions League
Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino rates holders Chelsea as the ‘team to beat’ in the Champions League this season.
Thomas Tuchel’s side began their Champions League defence with a 1-0 win over Russian outfit Zenit Saint Petersburg on Tuesday night.
Italian giants Juventus and Swedish side Malmo await the Blues in Group H and Pochettino insists Chelsea are the most dangerous team in Europe, particularly after the signing of Romelu Lukaku.
Belgium striker Lukaku completed a £97.5m return to Stamford Bridge earlier in the summer and has already scored three goals in three appearances for the European champions.
PSG have been tipped to end their wait for a Champions League triumph following the arrival of all-time great Lionel Messi, but Pochettino says his players need time to become a ‘team’.
‘It’s possible that Chelsea and ourselves are the two teams to beat on paper, looking at our squads, but Chelsea are the holders so they’re the team to beat especially after strengthening their squad,’ Pochettino said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
‘We’re not a team yet. We are a club that has recruited many players this summer. There are some big names but we have to turn into a team.
‘We know that we’ll be judged at the end of the season on our results. The pressure is there for all the clubs and we know that for a number of years, the Champions League is PSG’s main objective.’
PSG, who have won their first five Ligue 1 games to storm four points clear of the French domestic table, begin their Champions League campaign on Wednesday against Club Brugge.
Pochettino admitted it was ‘possible’ that Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe could start together for the first time as PSG kick-start their European season.
PSG captain Marquinhos has said that even if the three superstars play, the team need to perform as a defensive unit and insisted he would not be reluctant to make his voice heard on the pitch.
‘If the three of them are up front, they’re experienced players, they know we have to be compact and defend together,’ he said.
‘We know the defence has to play high to put them in the best conditions. If there’s anything to be said I’ll certainly say it.’
Chelsea boss Tuchel, meanwhile, praised his side’s resilience after they beat Zenit despite struggling to find rhythm for much of the match at Stamford Bridge.
‘We expected a tough game because it’s the highest competition in Europe and it’s the Russian champions,’ he said.
‘We had to be at our top level. I am happy because we had to work a lot. It was not easy. It’s tough to perform consistently at that level.’
‘We are not finished but we are in a good place to improve. The first step is done. But there are five more matches to go [in the group stage].’
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