Football

PSG can beat anyone with Mbappe, Neymar: Rio Ferdinand

Ferdinand praises strike pair as their club reach Champions League semi-finals

As Kylian Mbappe inspired Paris Saint-Germain to a comeback 2-1 win over Atalanta to reach the Champions League semi-finals yesterday morning (Singapore time), former Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand believes the French side can go on to "beat anyone".

PSG were on the verge of another disappointing exit as Atalanta held on to their 27th-minute lead, courtesy of Mario Pasalic's strike.

Mbappe, who came on in the 60th minute, may not have been fully fit, having just recovered from an ankle injury.

But all the elements that make the 21-year-old French striker one of the world's top players were quickly evident - dribbling with the ball at his feet, while his pace and movement opened up space for Neymar to attack as a fast-tiring Atalanta were pushed back into a desperate rearguard action.

After Brazilian defender Marquinhos had put PSG level in the final minute of normal time, Mbappe took it upon himself to avoid extra-time as he served up a superb pass for fellow substitute Eric Choupo-Moting to slot home the winner.

"That's what I love about Mbappe; the decision-making, the skills, he makes the right decisions," said Ferdinand, speaking as a pundit on BT Sport.

Fellow BT Sport pundit Glenn Hoddle also waxed lyrical over Mbappe, saying: "Neymar's cutting edge wasn't there but it's the run off the ball, no one was making the movement (before Mbappe came on). Mbappe was so sharp."

Ferdinand, who led the Red Devils to the 2008 Champions League, added: "You have a chance to beat anyone when you have Neymar and Mbappe. They are two of the best players on the planet."

Confidence is indeed oozing in the Paris camp, after reaching their first Champions League semi-final since 1995.

PSG coach Thomas Tuchel believes "everything is possible" for his team.

"The goals came very late, but we deserved the victory. We never stopped believing or attacking," said Tuchel, whose side will face Atletico Madrid or RB Leipzig in the last four.

"The boys who came off the bench had a big impact. We deserved it, we made our own luck."

PSG will be hopeful that Mbappe can start the semi-final next Wednesday morning, but it is thanks to Choupo-Moting that they are there at all.

It seems ironic that PSG - the world's fifth-richest club according to this year's Deloitte Football League - needed to rely on a free transfer from Stoke City to take them through to the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since the Qatari takeover in 2011.

They had gone out in the last 16 the past three years, but Choupo-Moting's goal saw them break through the glass ceiling on the same day PSG marked their 50th anniversary.

The 31-year-old Cameroonian might have to settle for a bit-part role in the semi-final, though.

Mbappe could be ready to start then and Angel di Maria will be back from suspension, although Marco Verratti might still be unavailable due to injury. - REUTERS

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