Hyppia backing for Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen may be the underdogs when they take on Paris St Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, but that does not mean Sami Hyypia is ready to accept defeat.
Hyypia, a Champions League winner as a player with Liverpool in 2005, acknowledges that big-spending Paris are favourites to make the quarter-finals, but while his side may not boast the same individual talents as their opponents, he believes they can be stronger as a team.
"We've got to play to our limit and give 100 per cent," said the Finn. "Our strength lies in our teamwork."
A 2-1 defeat at home to Schalke on Saturday could hardly be seen as ideal preparation for such an important European tie, but Hyypia actually believes his side can take more positives than negatives out of that game.
"If we play like we did on Saturday, then we're capable of making life very difficult for Paris," he said.
Hyypia left Sidney Sam out of his side at the weekend, preferring not to play him against the side he will be playing for next season.
Sam is back in the squad for Tuesday night's clash, though, and he can expect to start alongside Stefan Kiessling and Heung-Min Son in an attack-minded side. Emre Can is suspended, however.
Paris are set to respond with a similar set-up, led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who netted eight times in the group stage and has unsurprisingly been picked out for special attention.
"He's one of the best players in the world, but their whole team is full of quality players," he said.
One of those - Edinson Cavani - will not be fit, but Laurent Blanc nevertheless has a strong squad to choose from, and they will be boosted by a 3-0 win over Valenciennes at the weekend which preserved their five-point lead at the top of Ligue 1.
"When you win 3-0, you can only congratulate your players," said Blanc. "Although in truth, I think they've had their minds on Leverkusen for quite a while now.
"We were able to make some changes in order to prepare for Tuesday's Champions League game so that's good."
Blanc will be able to follow the game from the touchline after a one-match ban was suspended by UEFA last week.
The coach was in trouble after Paris were twice warned and then punished a third time for late starts to their matches during the group stages, and the governing body will be paying close attention once more.