Mauricio Pochettino claims the “Champions League loves PSG” as they prepare for a third European blockbuster.
Former Tottenham boss Pochettino could never have imagined such a difficult path to glory when he took over at Paris Saint Germain in January.
It is a rematch of Pochettino v Pep Guardiola from the epic 2019 quarter final when Tottenham knocked out Manchester City at the Etihad after a night of incredible drama.
PSG boss Pochettino is now expecting another classic. “The Champions League loves us. Any time we are involved in Champions League games people are not indifferent. People want to watch,” said Pochettino.
“We grabbed the attention because both ties were fantastic and I think people enjoyed watching PSG-Barcelona and PSG-Bayern. They were two amazing ties and massive victories for the club.”
PSG were involved in one of the all time great European ties against Barcelona in 2017 when, having won the first leg 4-0, they collapsed and lost 6-1 to the Spanish giants in the return. It was called the La Remontada by the Spanish press. This time, they finished the job.
“Before we played Barcelona here all the talk was about La Remontada (The Comeback 2017) because of what happened in the past. It was a bit of a strange feeling,” said Pochettino.
“Only a few people inside the club and of course the players – the most important factor – were not a little bit nervous and paranoid about it. They were thinking ‘Oh 4-1, again, Barcelona, what is going to happen if they score first.’
“We were really calm and we reached the quarter finals and then we were drawn with Bayern Munich and it was, ‘Oh, it’s them again, the best team in the world.’ No-one believed in us but here we are in the semi-final.
“Now we have, for sure, a massive fight against Manchester City this week. It’s going to be tough because Manchester City is one of the best teams in the world with Pep Guardiola who is for me the best coach in the world.
“It is always a pleasure to play against him and Manchester City. They have unbelievable players and it’s going to be another fantastic tie.”
For all of PSG’s global stars, Pochettino does appreciate Phil Foden as an “amazing player, a very talented player, good character” and has clear admiration for Guardiola from their days as rival bosses in the Premier League.
Tottenham beat City 1-0 at White Hart Lane in 2019 when Guardiola’s men were chasing an unprecedented quadruple and then somehow squeezed through despite losing 4-3 in the second leg when Raheem Sterling had a last gasp winner ruled out by VAR.
“It was an amazing game. The atmosphere was unbelievable. You can’t believe it now when you watch it all the things that happened in the second leg of the tie,” said Pochettino who is expecting another classic when PSG face City.
“It’s going to be a very good game against Manchester City for sure. All the talented players involved should be amazing and of course the philosophy and mentality of both clubs is to attack and play good football.
“For me, it’s going to be the most exciting game. I love to challenge him. I love to challenge the teams he prepared. And both teams for sure are going to fight to win and it’s going to be an amazing tie.”
Pochettino has made quite the impression at PSG. They can still win the Treble in France, the race for the title is much closer than before and now, having reached the final last year, they want to take the final step and become European champions.
After being told constantly at Tottenham how much the club needed to win trophies, Pochettino is used to high expectations. “Of course the target in the last ten years has been to win the Champions League and the club is working really, really hard to try to be there and win,” he said.
“Of course that is the last step and that last step is always the most difficult even from when we were talking, if you remember at Tottenham, it was always about the last step being the most difficult thing.
“But now Paris Saint Germain is there. Now it is about winning, last year the club was in the final of the Champions League and now we are in the semi-finals and the club is doing a fantastic job.”
Brazil superstar Neymar is easy to manage, according to Mauricio Pochettino.
Paris Saint Germain boss Pochettino is in charge of two of the biggest stars in world football in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
But Pochettino said: “Yes, Ronaldinho was my teammate here in Paris and now Neymar. Brazilian players, they are always different. They have something special inside. They are very open, happy people, always smiling. They love to play football because it’s like a dance.
“They play like they are dancing. When I was in south America, in Argentina, I always loved to play against Brazilian teams and the Brazilian players. Because we were talking about the stress … they don’t feel the stress, they have freedom when they play.
“That is a characteristic of the country and the culture of the Brazilian players. They need to feel good and to feel happy to perform in the best way. But with Ronaldinho in the past, he was a really nice guy and now Neymar.
“From day one when we arrived, he was open to work. He’s very humble. He listens to you and he always accepts all the instructions in a very good way.
“Your colleagues in France, they ask me how is Neymar? If he’s easy or not to manage? I said it’s so easy for us because you don’t need to do too much. They are very natural. They understand very well every time you try to give some instruction or advice.
“Like Kylian Mbappe, maybe from outside you can feel and see that maybe biggest star player that has a massive influence on the football world but they are very humble and they love to work and they love football. That is the most important and it’s so easy to manage them.”
Mauricio Pochettino has endured an incredible roller coaster ride since taking charge in Paris in January.
Ex-Tottenham boss Pochettino contracted Covid himself, is still having to live alone in a hotel in Paris away from his family who are still in London and the whole of Paris is subject to a strict curfew.
But Pochettino has also spoken about the horror of having to substitute Angel Di Maria last month as news emerged during a game with Nantes that his house was robbed while his wife and children were there.
Pochettino said: “The family is first. There is nothing more important in a situation like this than to care and look after your family. That’s why we took the decision. I was inside with him during the game until he was able to connect back home with his wife.
“And, of course, football took second place. In the end we lost the game because it was a crazy moment. The players could feel from the side certain situations happening. We did exactly what we needed to do always to put family first.
“It was really difficult because no-one is prepared to live this type of situation. In this moment when we knew about that, the game ends. We don’t care about the game because we care about the family of a player that was playing and we needed the take a decision that was going to affect the team.
“And then because the players are so clever, they knew in the moment that something had happened outside.
“Because it was a really strange movement and that was a really difficult thing to deal with and for the club the same … the game is important, it’s our job, it’s our responsibility, win the games, yes. But the family is first.”
Mauricio Pochettino is finally ready to take a starring role in an Amazon documentary.
Paris Saint Germain boss Pochettino was only in Tottenham’s behind-the-scenes All Or Nothing show for 25 minutes as he was sacked just weeks into the 2019/20 season.
But Amazon are now making another movie with PSG and Pochettino is enjoying the chance to be in the series. “Yes we are doing Amazon,” said Pochettino.
“I know we weren’t in the Tottenham one for very long, but we were in the first episode for 25 minutes! And of course I was acting a little bit because the club asked to do something.
“But I am very spontaneous with the players, the relationship is very natural and I think that is the key, to have good relationships with everyone.
“Not only with the starting XI but with the whole squad because of course Neymar and Mbappe are important, but all of the players are important too. If you want to achieve big things everybody needs to feel they are important.”