Veterans can steer PSG to Champions League title: Alves

Dani Alves is turning 36 soon but he believes that his years of experience can boost a PSG squad seeking their first Champions League title.
Dani Alves is turning 36 soon but he believes that his years of experience can boost a PSG squad seeking their first Champions League title.PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Dani Alves jokes that Paris Saint-Germain are still Champions League "virgins", but the presence of players like the decorated Brazil defender only helps to make them more credible contenders to win their maiden European Cup.

In a glittering career, he has won the Champions League three times with Barcelona, while reaching another final with Juventus.

Alves is a veteran now, his 36th birthday falling several weeks before this season's final, but he is conscious of what players like him and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, 41, can add to a PSG squad comprising football's two most expensive players in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

"We know how to win and how to lose. What we try to transmit to the others is that either we all go together in the same direction, or we leave the doors open to a defeat," Alves told Agence France-Presse.

He was speaking ahead of the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie at home to Manchester United today.

The mood is relaxed and confidence is high at the Parc des Princes as Thomas Tuchel's players seek to build on their 2-0 first-leg win last month, achieved without Neymar and Edinson Cavani.

While the former has been ruled out through injury and the latter might be fit to make only the bench, Alves believes PSG have proven they can cope with their absences.

"This is not a competition that depends on only one player having a spectacular day," he said.

"When you have experienced players, you don't tremble when it comes to playing in a hostile atmosphere, or under pressure."

In his debut campaign for the club last season, PSG were knocked out at this stage by Real Madrid, the first time Alves had not been involved in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in a decade.

It was a disappointment for the French champions and their Qatari owners, and talk had been rife over a divided dressing room, but Alves insisted there is an "incredible atmosphere" under Tuchel.

He said: "We are lucky this year to have a management team that is liked, respected by everyone. Everything has been put in place to make this a great year for us."

But, while PSG do not want to just get past United - they want to go beyond the last eight, something they have not managed since the Qatari takeover in 2011 - they are still haunted by the ghosts of their collapse at the Nou Camp two years ago despite winning the first leg 4-0.

Reflecting on that humiliation when they lost 6-1 to Barcelona in the second leg, Tuchel said: "It's not good to play with fear, but it's not good to play with too much confidence either.

"We have guys who played in Barcelona, who have that experience. We can't control the result, you never can in football, but we can control our performance."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2019, with the headline 'Veterans can steer PSG to Champions League title: Alves'. Print Edition | Subscribe