By David Minton in Paris
Paris Saint-Germain FC coach Vahid Halilhodzic relishes the possibility of eliminating UEFA Champions League holders FC Porto from this season's competition.
PSG play host to PFC CSKA Moskva at the Parc des Princes on Tuesday knowing a win would see them through to the last 16 irrespective of how Porto fare at home to Group H winners Chelsea FC. It is a prospect that clearly appeals to Halilhodzic, who said: "It would be a real exploit if we manage to qualify and it would be remarkable to knock out the defending champions."
The permutations are simple. PSG go through with a win, while a draw would also suffice if Porto failed to defeat Chelsea. CSKA also hope the English side will prevail in Portugal, as three points in the French capital would only be good enough for the Russian side if Porto failed to win.
"If we qualify that means we're among the top 16 teams in the Champions League and that would be a huge satisfaction for myself and the squad," Halilhodzic continued. "When the draw was made I said it wouldn't be easy. Chelsea are one of the best two teams in Europe, Porto are the defending champions and CSKA were Russian champions.
To qualify would be a huge achievement."
The Bosnian coach has used four different playing systems this season but whatever tactics he has employed goals have been hard to come by. In 24 games this season PSG have scored just 24 goals, and the coach is keen to improve on that record, saying: "We have to play more aggressively. Even though we know a draw may be good enough we’ll send out a team to win. It's a question of application, desire and confidence no matter what system you choose."
Halilhodzic is likely to opt for the 4-2-3-1 formation that earned a vital goalless draw at Chelsea on Matchday 5. Pauleta will operate as the lone striker while Edouard Cissé may be restored to the midfield after domestic suspension. Left midfielder Jérôme Rothen is still out with a broken ankle.
CSKA's league season finished in mid-November and for the last ten days the Moscow club have been putting in some warm weather preparation in Spain. They showed their match sharpness last Wednesday with a 3-0 friendly win against Málaga CF.
According to Halilhodzic, the Spanish sojourn could give them the advantage. "They'll be fresh physically whereas we've been playing a lot of games. We have more pressure on us and they have nothing to lose." His CSKA counterpart, Valeriy Gazzaev, said: "The Málaga match was useful. Of course friendly matches aren't the same as competitive fixtures but it was the only possibility we had to keep in shape."
Gazzaev is without the injured trio of Ivica Olic, Daniel Carvalho and Chidi Odiah for the decisive encounter. CSKA have only one Champions League win from the eleven matches they have played although perhaps crucially, in terms of confidence at least, that solitary success was a 2-0 win at home to PSG in September. "
I think the two teams are at the same level and have an equal chance of winning. The 90 minutes will reveal everything," said Gazzaev.
Midfield player Sergei Semak, meanwhile, warned: "PSG haven't changed their personnel much since the first match but their form has been improving and they'll be difficult to beat."
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