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Ancelotti: PSG isn't Champions League favorite

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Sept. 18, 2012, 2:49 p.m. | Sports — by Associated Press

Dynamo Kyiv's coach Yuri Semin speaks to his team during a training session at Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Paris Saint Germain will face Dynamo Kyiv tomorrow in a UEFA Champions League soccer match in Paris.
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Associated Press

Associated Press

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti is playing down expectations ahead of Tuesday's Champions League opener against Dynamo Kyiv, despite a massive outlay on new players having thrust the ambitious club firmly into the spotlight.

PSG's bid to become a European power has caught the headlines after a spending spree of nearly €160 million to recruit Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Thiago Silva from Serie A among other signings.

But Ancelotti, who won the Champions League with AC Milan as both a player and a coach, wants to take the pressure off his expensive squad.

"I don't think we can say today that PSG is the favorite. I think we can say that PSG has a lot of ambition and wants to do well in the biggest competition in Europe," Ancelotti said Monday, Sept. 17, at a news conference. "We have players with experience and we have a coach who has a lot of experience. It's difficult to say what PSG can do in the Champions League. We will learn match by match."

After beginning the season with three straight draws, PSG has won its last two matches, including a 2-0 win against Toulouse on Friday in which Ibrahimovic scored his fifth goal of the season.

The imposing Sweden striker has yet to win the Champions League in a career in which he has also played for Inter Milan, Ajax and Barcelona.

"My feelings haven't changed. I want to win it because every trophy I play in I want to win," Ibrahimovic said. "A lot of people spoke about the club this summer because of the transfers. We have a very solid team that can go far."

Ibrahimovic played down his sudden departure from Milan despite finishing as Serie A's top scorer last season.

"Milan's a big club, I'm just another player who came and went," he said.

With Ibrahimovic leading the attack, PSG will be expected to win a Group A that also features Porto and Dinamo Zagreb. The Croatian side hosts Porto on Tuesday.

Silva is expected to make his long-awaited debut at center back and will likely play alongside countryman Alex, after France center half Mamadou Sakho was ruled out with a thigh injury.

"I'm very disappointed not to play tomorrow," Sakho said. "It meant so much to me, but I felt a small pain in my thigh the last time I played and, along with the medical staff, we decided not to take any risks."

Ibrahimovic he has settled in quickly, but moreimportantly for Ancelotti, the defense is getting stronger.

"In four matches, we have conceded only one goal, and that was from a set piece situation," Ancelotti said.

Much is expected of PSG this season. But it is already six points behind French leader Marseille, which has won all five of its matches despite selling key players, rather than recruiting superstars.

PSG last played in the Champions League eight years ago, where it went out in the group stage after losing at home to Chelsea and CSKA Moscow.

Dynamo won 3-1 on Friday against Karpaty, with midfielder Nico Kranjcar scoring twice.

Dynamo knocked PSG out of the UEFA Cup quarterfinals three years ago, but everything has changed at PSG since then, with new owners from Qatar investing more than €260 million on transfers overall since taking over in June of last year.

Although PSG is heavily fancied, Dynamo defender Taras Mykhalyk says his team is in a "fighting mood" and should take inspiration from Ukraine's 1-1 draw away to England last week.

"Ukraine took the ball at Wembley and started to dominate in ball control," he said. "We mustn't be afraid when we take the pitch to play in Paris."

Meanwhile, Dinamo Zagreb will hope for better fortune than in last year's Champions League — although it could hardly do worse.

Dinamo lost all its matches in the group stage, conceding 22 goals — including seven in an embarrassing home thrashing by Lyon.

"We are outsiders, but we will do our best not to lose," Dinamo coach Ante Cacic said.

Dinamo is top of the league and dropped points for only the second time this season when it drew 0-0 at home to Osijek on Friday.

The draw also put an end to a formidable run of 11 consecutive wins, with Brazilian Sammir chipping in with eight goals from midfield during that spell.

Porto's attack, meanwhile, is not the same since Hulk left to join Zenit St. Petersburg two weeks ago, despite the club insisting that he would stay.

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