Focus on Ibrahimovic before Malmo game

Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeps his focus at a Paris Saint-German training session. PSG kick off their Champions League Group A campaign against his boyhood club Malmo in Paris today.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic keeps his focus at a Paris Saint-German training session. PSG kick off their Champions League Group A campaign against his boyhood club Malmo in Paris today.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

PARIS • All eyes will be on Zlatan Ibrahimovic when Paris Saint-German get their Champions League Group A campaign under way in Paris today, as the Swede comes up against his boyhood club Malmo.

It will be a particularly special occasion for Ibrahimovic, who grew up in the southern Swedish city and scored 16 goals in 40 league appearances for Malmo before moving to Ajax in 2001, later enjoying illustrious spells with Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Barcelona.

After Malmo beat Celtic 4-3 on aggregate to qualify for the group stage, Ibrahimovic, now 33, wrote on Twitter: "One day I hope to experience the Champions League in Malmo on the pitch. Congratulations!"

The return match in Sweden is not until November, but in the meantime Ibrahimovic will be eager to help his current side get off to a winning start in Europe, and get among the goals - he is presently just three shy of Pauleta's club record tally of 109.

The striker missed Friday's 2-2 draw at home with Bordeaux in Ligue 1 with an abdominal injury suffered on international duty last week, but PSG coach Laurent Blanc stressed that Ibrahimovic wanted to save himself for Malmo.


    Wolfsburg v CSKA Moscow

  • This encounter has a distinct sense of deja vu about it as Wolfsburg hosted their Russian rivals in their only previous Champions League campaign in 2009. The Bundesliga runners-up came out on top that day, only to fall in Moscow and eventually miss out on the knockout stages.

    Wolfsburg are on a 24-match unbeaten run in the Bundesliga at home. CSKA, though, had been on a club record seven straight league wins before being held 2-2 by Zenit St Petersburg 2-2 on Saturday.


    Galatasaray v Atletico Madrid

  • Turkish champions Galatasaray enjoyed their finest European hour in 2000, when they defeated Arsenal on penalties to win the former Uefa Cup.

    They host 2014 finalists Atletico Madrid, who last lifted the European Cup in 1962 but tasted their first league defeat of the season on Saturday when they went down 1-2 to Barcelona.

    Dutch maestro Wesley Sneijder will pull the strings for the home side while Lukas Podolski is the main threat up front.


    Benfica v Astana

  • Portuguese giants Benfica came agonisingly close to European glory, for the first time since back-to-back European Cups in 1961 and 1962, when losing the 2013 and 2014 Europa League finals to Chelsea and Sevilla respectively.

    They take on debutants Astana who are the first team from Kazakhstan to qualify for the Champions League group phase.

    Benfica warmed up for the tie at their Estadio da Luz with a 6-0 thrashing of Belenenses on Friday.

"We need to move on (from the draw with Bordeaux), although we also need to analyse the reasons why we drew.

"It's a different competition, a different opponent, but we will need to be much more rigorous and disciplined against Malmo," warned Blanc.

Javier Pastore is doubtful with a calf problem and Serge Aurier is suspended for PSG, who are dreaming of going all the way in the Champions League this season after being eliminated in the quarter-finals in each of the last three years.

Malmo finished bottom of their Champions League group last season, losing five out of six games, and they head to France on the back of a 1-1 draw at home with Elfsborg that left them fifth in the Swedish top flight.

However, Norwegian coach Age Hareide will be hoping that Malmo, beaten European Cup finalists in 1979, can reproduce the performances that took them through three rounds of qualifying to reach the group stage.

"They (PSG) are huge favourites and have world-class players in every position, but we showed against Salzburg and Celtic that we have the level," Swedish international defender Anton Tinnerholm told local newspaper Sydsvenskan.

Malmo, whose star man is former Ajax and Werder Bremen striker Markus Rosenberg, are without Agon Mehmeti due to a foot injury. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Focus on Ibrahimovic before Malmo game'. Print Edition | Subscribe