PSG not Champions League favourites, insists Pochettino

By Sports Desk April 13, 2021

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino does not believe his team are favourites to win the Champions League after eliminating holders Bayern Munich.

PSG advanced to the semi-finals for the second successive season on away goals after the blockbuster tie ended 3-3 following Tuesday's 1-0 loss at home to Bayern.

Ligue 1 champions PSG exacted some revenge after moving through to the final four, having lost last season's decider to Bayern.

PSG will face either Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund in the semis, while Chelsea are set to meet the winner of the Liverpool-Real Madrid clash.

Pochettino, though, dismissed the idea that PSG are the main contender to win the Champions League this season.

"I don't think so," Pochettino told reporters when asked if PSG are favourites. "We have beat Barcelona in last 16 in two games, we have beat Bayern now in two games too.

"I think we deserved to win both ties, but I don't think PSG are the main contender to win Champions League. There are still rivals in. We have qualified and Chelsea did today as well.

"We will see in the ties Man City versus Dortmund and Liverpool versus Real Madrid. Any team which is in semi-finals has the same options to win."

PSG's elimination of Bayern is the first instance in Champions League history of the previous season's losing finalists eliminating the holders in the knockout stages.

French giants PSG have reached the semi-finals for the second season in a row, after managing to reach the final four only once in their previous 11 campaigns in the competition before that – their first in 1994-95.

PSG, though, failed to score at home in the Champions League for the first time in 24 games, since a 0-0 draw with Madrid in October 2015.

Asked to pick between City and Dortmund, former Tottenham boss Pochettino – who led Spurs to the 2018-19 Champions League final – added: "We have faced Barcelona in last 16, playing two games, and we have disqualified Barca. We have also eliminated Bayern Munich in quarter-finals.

"We don't choose one or other rival. The one we play, we will try to beat them. If you are wondering we can or not beat them, we will see."

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    Barty became the first local Australian Open singles champion in 44 years by beating Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Saturday.

    Such a scoreline looked unlikely when Barty fell 5-1 behind in the second set in front of an electric Rod Laver Arena crowd.

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    From Collins' 5-1 lead, Barty hit 13 winners and just four unforced errors. Collins was three and nine respectively. But what really hurt the American was making just three of 12 first serves in the two games she was broken in.

    Stats Perform takes a closer look at what happened, with Collins two points away from forcing a third set on three separate occasions.

    Collins serving at 6-3 1-5
    Barty had served two double faults in the previous game to open the door widely to Collins. After the American missed a first serve, a loud cheer from the crowd was met by a disapproving finger wag from Barty, who followed that up with a forehand winner. Still, Collins found herself two points from the set at 30-30. But she sent a backhand well long before Barty forced another error with a powerful return. Collins made one of six first serves in the game.

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    Barty raced into a 40-0 lead and, while Collins won the next two points, a long forehand helped her hold, putting pressure on the American.

    Collins serving at 6-3 3-5
    Collins again found herself two points from the set, leading 30-0. The response from Barty was phenomenal. Barty crushed a forehand return winner down the line before another forehand winner caught the back of the line to draw the game level at 30-30. Another big forehand return set up break point before Collins netted a backhand.

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    Barty recovered from 0-15 to hold, with two big serves doing the damage, and Collins' momentum was well and truly gone.

    Collins serving at 6-3 5-5
    On the back of making four of five first serves, Collins steadied to end Barty's run of four straight games.

    Barty serving at 6-3 5-6
    For the third time, Collins found herself two points away from winning the set, with Barty in a 15-30 hole. But Barty came up big, delivering three consecutive unreturnable serves to force a tie-break.

    Tie-break
    Collins started the tie-break with a forehand that flew well long then returned a serve well long to fall 2-0 behind. That freed Barty up, the Australian crushing back-to-back winners, including a great smash, to open up a 4-0 lead she would not relinquish. Collins put a backhand return off a Barty second serve halfway up the net to fall 5-1 behind. A forehand cross-court passing shot winner sealed Barty's victory.

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    Ash Barty was "a little stumped" after she beat Danielle Collins to claim her maiden Australian Open title.

    The world number one had to come from 5-1 down in the second set to defeat her American opponent – a first-time grand slam finalist – 6-3 7-6 (7-2) on Rod Laver Arena.

    Buoyed on by a partisan home crowd in Melbourne, Barty made light work of a drained Collins in the tie-break to become the first Australian since 1978 to win the men's or women's singles in the season's first major.

    Barty is also the first woman to win her home grand slam since Sloane Stephens triumphed in the 2017 US Open, and the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to win the Australian Open while ranked number one.

    The 25-year-old has won 11 straight matches in 2022 and now has three grand slam titles to her name, after winning the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon in 2021. 

    She is the first Australian Open Women's singles winner with 30 or fewer games dropped on her way to secure the title since Mary Pierce in 1995.

    "I'm a little stumped here," Barty said at the on-court presentation.

    "I would love to thank everyone who does so much work behind the scenes. This last couple of years has been extraordinarily tough for everyone.

    "It takes a really big village to put on an event like this. I think this tournament has been one of my favourite experiences.

    "To my team... wow. I'm so lucky to have so many people here that love me, support me, my mum, dad and sisters here, so happy that they could come down here today.

    "I'm an incredibly fortunate and lucky girl to have so much love in my corner. We did it all together. Nobody's changed from my team, you guys are the best in the business, I can't thank you enough for all the time and love you put into me.

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    Collins will be heading into the top 10 for the first time in her career after her run in Melbourne. The 28-year-old looked primed to take the match to a decider when she raced ahead in the second set, before Barty's sensational comeback.

    "Congratulations to Danielle and your team, it's been an amazing fortnight for you," Barty told the runner-up.

    "You're in the top 10 and that's absolutely where you belong. I know you'll be fighting for many more of these in the future."

    Collins, who was aiming for a third career singles title on the WTA Tour, is the seventh different American player to reach the final of the women's singles at the Australian Open since the turn of the century.

    She beat Barty in Adelaide in 2021 but has now lost four of their five meetings in total.

    "Well, first, I owe a big congratulations to Ash, on a phenomenal two weeks here, a really phenomenal couple of years," the 28-year-old said.

    "It's been tremendous to watch her climb her way up the rankings all the way to number one and live out her dream.

    "I really admire you as the player that you are, the variety of your game – hopefully I can implement some of that into mine."

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