By Julien Pretot
PARIS, March 12 (Reuters) - Paris St Germain underlined their Champions League credentials not just by thrashing Bayer Leverkusen 6-1 on aggregate in the last 16 on Wednesday but also by showing the strength of their substitutes' bench.
Fielding a rejigged side after demolishing the German team 4-0 in the first leg, PSG beat Bayer 2-1 on Wednesday and, despite a stuttering start to the game, were never really in danger.
Coach Laurent Blanc rested his usual midfield of Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta and Blaise Matuidi, while Marquinhos was handed a start in central defence in place of Alex.
Fullbacks Christophe Jallet and Lucas Digne also got the coach's trust after Gregory van der Wiel was ruled out injured and Maxwell was left out.
Edinson Cavani, who sat out of the first leg through injury, returned to the starting side at the expense of Lucas.
Although the midfield struggled at first, Yohan Cabaye, sitting in front of the defence, managed an impressive 141 passes and tackled relentlessly to launch PSG's attacks.
"Maybe our difficult start is due to the lack of experience," Blanc told a news conference.
"We saw that Champions League level is different from French league level."
Although Jallet committed the foul that led to Bayer's missed penalty, Marquinhos scored his third Champions League goal with a powerful header to cancel out Sidney Cam's early opener.
"It went very well for me - I not only started but also proved that I can score," the Brazilian said.
"It's great for the team. However, we must improve our defensive record. We must work harder on not conceding a goal."
Digne's offensive contribution was also remarkable as the former Lille player set up Ezequiel Lavezzi for PSG's second goal eight minutes into the second half.
Blanc still expects more from his players.
"I'm not saying the mindset was not good, I'm just saying that it's the Champions League and it's a bit harder," he said.
"But I congratulate them, I'm happy."
PSG still have a round to negotiate to emulate last season's performance when they reached the last four.
"The competition continues. we're entering money time. It's getting serious," said Blanc.
"We're having a good season, it can become a very, very good season."
PSG lead the Ligue 1 standings by eight points with 10 matches left in the season.
(Editing by Ed Osmond)
- Sports & Recreation
- Paris St Germain
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Laurent Blanc
- Lucas Digne
- Christophe Jallet