Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has urged his side to go as far as they possibly can in the UEFA Champions League but admitted that there will be no such thing as an ideal opponent in the quarter-finals.
The French Ligue 1 leaders came from behind to beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 at the Parc des Princes in the second leg of their last 16 tie on Wednesday to go through to the next round 6-1 on aggregate, Marquinhos and Ezequiel Lavezzi getting their goals on the night. PSG are now certain to at least match their performance in last season's competition, when they lost on away goals to Barcelona in the last eight, but Blanc has urged his men to go that step further.
However, with Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona already through, next week's draw is unlikely to be kind on the French title-holders. "It's not a bonus" to be in the quarter-finals, said Blanc. "We need to prepare well, be very professional, but I'm not worried about that. I think the players will respond to the challenge. We have an end to the season that could become very exciting. First of all we are happy, satisfied, but we have won nothing. At the end of the season what counts is trophies."
PSG are eight points clear of Monaco at the top of Ligue 1 and are through to the Coupe de la Ligue final, where they will face Lyon next month. But while they are on course to win a domestic trophy double, going all the way in the Champions League will be a huge challenge. "I think first of all the objective is to go as far as possible. OK, we have done as well as last year, but you want to win every tie," said Blanc.
"There are teams who have a legitimacy in the Champions League in terms of experience that we don't have, but I think the consideration that our opponents have for us has increased. They know we are a club who can go far. We will wait for the draw. Hopefully we can get a bit of luck in the draw, but the ideal opponent does not exist."
PSG prepare for Saint-Etienne
Blanc was disappointed with his team's performance on the night, as they conceded an early goal to Sidney Sam before Salvatore Sirigu had to save a Simon Rolfes penalty with the score at 1-1. He gave a guarded response following comments by club President Nasser Al-Khelaifi on French television after the match that he would be offered a new contract.
"I expected more. The manner was not great but the level in the Champions League is a lot higher than the French championship. I am still very happy. I didn't expect that question," he added about his contractual situation. "I hope the President's comments will be verified in the coming weeks."
Blanc, who signed an initial two-year deal last summer, will now prepare his side for Sunday's home clash with Saint-Etienne, while Leverkusen could hardly have asked for a worse game to follow their exit from Europe. The Werkself go to runaway German Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, where they must try to end a run of six defeats and a draw in their last seven matches to get their bid to qualify for next season's Champions League back on track.
"I'm feeling a bit sorry for the team that we didn't get anything from game," said coach Sami Hyypia, whose side were due to fly straight to Munich ahead of the weekend's match. "I think today there were a lot of positive things in this game and of course after a defeat you can't be 100 per cent satisfied but I'm very happy for the team that they were running and fighting a lot.
"Its a pity that they didn't get a draw because I think we deserved it. Of PSG's prospects, Hyypia added: "Paris are a very good side as they showed again. They can go far. There are other great sides but they have a chance."