(Corrects PSG to losing in quarter-finals last year)
By Julien Pretot
PARIS, April 1 (Reuters) - Paris St Germain are stronger than last season and he is in the best shape of his life, yet Zlatan Ibrahimovic says experienced Chelsea are the hot favourites in the Champions League quarter-final against the French champions.
PSG, who were knocked out by Barcelona in the quarter-finals last year, have overcome weaker opponents so far this season and 2012 champions Chelsea are clearly a big test of their European credentials.
“We are beginners in everything we do while Chelsea have had a project for 10 years,” Sweden striker Ibrahimovic, who has scored 10 goals in Europe’s premier competition this season, told a news conference at the Parc des Princes.
”I think Chelsea are the super favourites.
“Experience is an advantage for the one who has it. I think Chelsea has more experience in the Champions League. We’re in the position Chelsea were eight or nine years ago.”
Chelsea started their transformation into continental powerhouses when Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took over the club in 2003, a move PSG copied in 2012 when Qatar Sports Investments took charge and lured world-class players like Ibrahimovic and Brazil centre back Thiago Silva.
PSG, however, are learning fast.
“The big difference (with last year) is that it is my second year as well as my team mates’. We know each other better,” said Ibrahimovic.
“I think we are better today than one year ago collectively.”
Coach Laurent Blanc called for patience.
“Things have been going very very fast but experience of the Champions League requires time,” he said.
“Manchester City is an example but we can see they’re not in the quarter-finals. At European level, in spite of our ambitions and our means we’re one of the two clubs with the least experience,” he added, referring to Atletico Madrid who face Barcelona.
Apart from Atletico and PSG, all the quarter-finalists (Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United) have won the Champions League.
Wednesday’s first leg at the Parc des Princes will provide PSG with the opportunity to prove their worth.
“It’s with the kind of games like tomorrow’s that we can make a statement,” said Ibrahimovic.
“It’s a big test for us to see where we stand.”
The game will be a tactical battle between Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Blanc, with the Blues likely to look to hit PSG on the break.
“It’s two different styles. We’re going to stick to our philosophy,” Blanc said.
”If we start getting scared of being hit on the break we’ll play against nature and it’s not going to do us any good.
“Tomorrow, we should avoid conceding goals. We know there are going to be counter-attacks and we’ll get ready for that but we’re not going to just defend.”
That would probably be a waste of Ibrahimovic’s talent.
“I feel very good I have to be honest so far this season it has been my best season. Mentally and physically I feel very strong,” the Swede said.
Editing by Ed Osmond