Is this the year PSG break their Champions League duck?
PSG have made a statement in the Champions League. The gauntlet has been laid. Real Madrid came to the French capitallast month and in the space of 33 minutes, Angel Di Maria sealed their fate with two goals. A late Thomas Meunier strike added the icing to the cake, and Real Madrid were leaving the Parc des Princes with their tails between their legs. Having humbled the side that have won four of the last six editions of the Champions League, PSG must now be confident of their chances going forward in the tournament.
The French club have never won the Champions League, but with the money poured in by Qatar Sports Investments over the last eight years, there is an expectation at PSG that a maiden European Cup represents the next step forward. For a club that is still relatively young, having only been founded in 1970, lifting the trophy would be an important landmark in the clubs history.
PSG are yet to make it beyond the quarter–finals of the Champions League since that takeover and have exited thecompetition in the round of 16 in each of the last three seasons. Among those defeats was the infamous loss to Barcelona. Having led the Spanish giants 4-0 going into the second leg, PSG lost 6-1 at Camp Nou to crash out of the competition. Last season’s disappointing home defeat to Manchester United summed up the French club’s struggles in the Champions League of late.
However, the 3-0 win over Real Madrid last month is proof that this PSG side may be ready to make a stronger challenge for European glory. It’s worth bearing in mind that none of Killian Mbappé, Neymar, or Edinson Cavani were available for that match, and that makes the win all the more impressive. With those three fit and fighting, PSG will be a formidable force when at the peak of their powers, and a contender in Champions League betting odds.
The group stage has rarely posed any problems to the French side, having qualified for the knockout phase in each of the last seven seasons. It’s during the last 16 where PSG have come unstuck in the previous seasons. You could argue that PSG have been unfortunate with the sides they have drawn in the second round in recent years, having faced Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea twice in the last five editions of the Champions League. However, if the Paris club has pretensions of European dominance, then these are the teams that need to be vanquished in order to achieve that.
For a club that spends so much money on signings, it can be difficult to create a togetherness and team spirit. Players who arrive for large sums undoubtedly feel an added pressure to perform individually, and as such selfishness can creep in. If PSG are to challenge for Champions League glory, they need to create the kind of unity demonstrated by last year’s champions, Liverpool. Perhaps, with this in mind, it is no coincidence that last month’s impressive performance against Real Madrid came without Neymar, Cavani or Mbappé in the team. With the heavy-hitters absent, the rest of the squad were free to express themselves fully.
What those players do bring, however, is a certain level of intimidation to opposition defenders, particularly defenders for lesser clubs. With Club Brugge and Galatasaray making up PSG’s other Group A opponents, this factor will come into play. Such opponents may fancy their chances of upsetting the odds if Neymar, Cavani and Mbappé are out, and this is where those players’ star quality is important.
Momentum is key in building a run towards Champions League success. PSG started this year’s tournament in the perfect manner with a win against Real Madrid and will need to keep that up as the weeks go by. They will be hoping for a kinder second round draw this time around should they qualify, but the early signs would suggest that PSG mean business this season, whoever may stand in their way.