PARIS (Reuters) - Unai Emery’s decision to start with Giovani Lo Celso in front of the defence in Paris St Germain’s 3-1 Champions League defeat at Real Madrid backfired badly, but the coach remained confident his side would qualify for the last eight.
Emery left experienced defensive midfielder Thiago Motta, who is still not yet fully fit, out of the squad altogether and kept the seasoned Lassana Diarra on the bench, placing his trust in the 21-year-old Lo Celso.
The Argentine fouled Toni Kroos as Real were awarded a penalty on the stroke of halftime and made several blunders that could have cost his team much more than one goal.
Lo Celso played too high up the pitch, leaving space for Luka Modric to exploit.
But Emery insisted he had played a “great game”, adding that PSG had what it takes to overturn their deficit on March 6 at the Parc des Princes, where forwards Kylian Mbappe and Neymar will have to show more of the qualities that made the club want to shell out 400 million euros ($500 million) to recruit them.
“We have a lot of options to overturn that deficit, I have faith in the team,” Emery said.
The Basque believes PSG, who opened the scoring through Adrien Rabiot, deserved better.
“There are two ways to look at things: it’s a bad result but we can turn it around and we played well. I‘m happy about the way we played,” he said.
Midfielder Marco Verratti was also optimistic.
“I‘m confident for the return leg because we played a good game,” he said.
Rabiot, meanwhile, was fiercely critical of the runaway Ligue 1 leaders for failing to match up to top-quality opposition.
“The problem is that it’s easy to score eight goals against Dijon but it’s in these games where we need to be decisive,” he said.
”We’re going to try and turn the tie around in Paris but when we have a handicap like this it’s difficult. We created chances but they weren’t clear ones.
“When you play against teams like this they have two or three chances and they score from them. We didn’t play the game we needed to and that’s why I‘m angry.”
Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Ed Osmond