Claudio Ranieri masterminded one of football’s greatest shocks at Leicester and Paris St Germain boss Unai Emery is determined to fend off the threat of another upset on Sunday.
Emery takes his team west to Brittany to tackle Ranieri’s Nantes, as both teams return to Ligue 1 action after French football’s winter break.
Post-Christmas cup games have warmed up each side for the league’s resumption, with PSG sitting top of the table and Nantes in fifth spot.
Ranieri’s Premier League title triumph with Leicester in 2015/16 remains one of sport’s modern marvels, as he transformed a side expected to toil away in the lower reaches of the table into championship winners.
It will take a monumental effort for Nantes at the Stade de la Beaujoire to end their visitors’ six-game winning run, but Emery knows wily Ranieri is not to be underestimated.
Emery said: “Ranieri is a reference for all coaches. He has a lot of experience and has coached a lot of great clubs. He achieved incredible results with Leicester. It’s a great honour for Ligue 1 to have Ranieri at Nantes.”
He added on the PSG website: “They are a very tough team to play against. They will play with a lot of desire and their supporters at home.”
Despite Emery’s flattery of Ranieri, the capital side are strong favourites after beating Nantes 4-1 in November at the Parc des Princes.
Ranieri knows the size of the task that awaits his players but was quick to quash talk of Nantes attempting to kill the game by playing for a stalemate.
“No, we’ll play to win, to play our game,” Ranieri said.
“Afterwards, those who know football will see whether we park one, two or three buses. Or if we play football.”
Asked how he would free up his players to perform against their title-chasing opponents, Ranieri said: “Against the big teams, it’s easier. You have nothing to lose.
“Paris score a lot of goals in the Champions League. It’s therefore logical that they would score against us. The most important thing is to give a good performance. Afterwards, if we lose we’ll have to look at how we lost. But it’s 0-0 to start with and I want to win.”
He added, according to the Nantes website: “I’m sure we’ll give a good performance. If Paris play like Paris… congratulations.”
It remains to be seen whether PSG take Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani and Argentinian midfielder Javier Pastore with them to Nantes, after both made late returns to Paris from their winter holidays. The star pair have returned to full training but Emery may wait before selecting either.