LONDON • Samir Nasri has turned up the heat before the first leg of Manchester City's Champions League quarter-final with Paris Saint-Germain today by claiming that the French champions would struggle to dominate the English Premier League, and that they would be tested by a Monday night fixture away to Stoke City.
Nasri added that PSG "are not Barcelona" and the French Ligue 1 lacks the competitiveness of the Premier League.
While City's preparations for the tie have been hampered by the likely absence of goalkeeper Joe Hart through injury, Nasri set about stoking the fires in the PSG camp by playing down the threat they pose.
When asked a hypothetical question about whether City's opponents would dominate the Premier League, the Frenchman told L'Equipe he believed that would be beyond them.
"It is true that they have a great team," the midfielder said. "But I don't think they would be better than others (in England).
"There is no easy match in England, not one. I would like to see PSG play a Monday night at Stoke, at West Ham United or at the Emirates against Arsenal. Today, the "Big Four" no longer exists. There are six, seven teams that can become champions. It is more difficult. Barcelona could become champions here, yes, but PSG, they are not Barcelona."
Having been a spectator at Stamford Bridge when PSG eliminated Chelsea in the previous round, Nasri regards Laurent Blanc's men as favourites against City. But he believes they are beatable and admitted his team's aim is not just to score an away goal at the Parc des Princes, but to win there.
"Yes, PSG are favourites because we have a lot of injuries," he said. "PSG also have the experience of being in the quarter-finals two years in a row. It is a slight handicap (for City), but it will be an open affair."
Both mega-rich teams - propelled to success by Middle East backers - are under pressure to deliver.
PSG are attempting to reach the last four for the first time since Qatar Sport Investment started investing hundreds of millions of dollars into the club in 2011.
City, who have been backed by the wealth of Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi for the last eight years. are featuring in the last eight of Europe's biggest club competition for the first time.
Aside from Hart, Manuel Pellegrini's men will miss captain Vincent Kompany in defence. Angus Gunn, City's 20-year-old goalkeeper with no first-team experience, could be on the bench as backup for Willy Caballero.
The good news for City is that Nasri and Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne are fit again following lengthy injury lay-offs.
For PSG, midfielder Marco Verratti is sidelined with a groin injury. Javier Pastore, often used as a substitute, is missing with a calf problem but playmaker Angel di Maria is set to return following a minor knee injury.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been on fire in attack recently but midfielder Thiago Motta said it was more important how PSG fared as a team against City.
"It will not be Ibra against City but PSG against City," the Italian international said. "Maybe he will make the difference if he scores a goal but that's not what matters.
"What matters is that we win the game. If he puts himself under pressure saying he has to win the match it's not going to go well."
THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS
PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN V MANCHESTER CITY
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