Marseille remain the only French side to have been victorious in the UEFA Champions League but PSG are hoping to change that statistic this year as they bid for glory amongst Europe’s elite. Can the Ligue 1 side go all the way and become the first non-Spanish side to lift the trophy since 2013?
PSG have made a decent start to this season’s UEFA Champions League with back-to-back victories. They were always expected to overcome Celtic and duly walloped Brendan Rodger’s side thanks to an Edison Cavani double and a second-half own goal from Mikael Lustig. However, it was their second group stage result which proved more eye-catching and sent a powerful message to the remainder of Europe’s top clubs.
Unai Emery’s side started as narrow favourites at the Parc des Princes as they welcomed Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich to the capital on September 27th and they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners with the visitor’s late consolation being ruled out for offside. This result sent them three points clear at the top of Group B and resulted in Carlo Ancelotti being relieved of his duties at the German club.
Dani Alves, Edison Cavani, and Neymar all got their names on the scoresheet as the Ligue 1 leaders ran riot against one of Europe’s most decorated sides. Despite forcing 18 corners in the game, the five-time European Champions couldn’t forge a way through the resolute PSG backline.
It was the perfect performance from Emery’s men with summer additions Neymar and Kylian Mbappe once again performing on the big stage. It was a hugely important victory as it not only gave them daylight at the summit of Group B but it also put to bed any rumours of discontent amongst the dressing room which had dominated the build-up to this contest.
Striker Edison Cavani later admitted there has been some crossed-words between him and Neymar but concluded that “These things happen in football, but they get so big and bigger than they actually are”. Matters appeared to be resolved as the pair combined to devastating effect against Bayern Munich.
Neymar appears to have settled into life at PSG and has already netted six times in as many games domestically. This total includes scoring twice in the club’s 6-2 victories over Toulouse and Bordeaux. He only found the net on 13 occasions during his final season at the Nou Camp and appears to relish the freedom given to him by Unai Emery.
The Brazilian has also got on the scoresheet in both Champions League clashes and has a tremendous record in this competition. He’s been directly involved in 40 goals during his 42 appearances in the Champions League (23 goals, 17 assists) and also netted four times for Barcelona last year.
Fellow summer recruit Kylian Mbappe netted his first Champions League goal against Bayern and has found the target twice in his opening four Ligue 1 matches. The former Monaco man is still only 19 years old and still has plenty to learn but his development can only be helped by playing alongside the talented Brazilian and the pair could be the key to PSG’s Champions League hopes this season.
PSG are expected to make it three from three when they make the short trip to Belgium to face winless Anderlecht on October 18th. The Brussels outfit have conceded six goals from their opening two encounters and are yet to score their first UEFA Champions League goal of the season. They collapsed at the hands of Celtic at Stade Constant Vanden Stock and PSG could run riot.
Since their hammering of Bayern Munich, PSG have been moved into second favouritism for the Champions League and are priced at 5/1 in the outright market with Coral. Holders Real Madrid have unsurprisingly been installed as the favourites but many punters feel there is more value in backing the French side and those who agree can use the £50 free bet available via Oddschecker to get behind the Parisians.
PSG can attack at speed and have plenty of goals in their side. They are yet to concede in the Champions League but they have been far from watertight domestically. Unai Emery lambasted his side’s sloppy defending during their recent 6-2 success at the Parc des Princes saying “it was hard to say it was perfect” later adding “I’m happy with the result, happy with the match and overall performance of the players but we conceded two home goals. That, I liked less”.
The French side will need to buck up their ideas at the back if they are to clinch their first ever Champions League title this season but they’ve been foot-perfect in the competition thus far.
Last season, they conceded twice to Ludogorets at home and kept just one clean sheet during the group stage (at home to Basel) before a show-stopping 4-0 success in Paris against Neymar’s Barcelona. Unfortunately for the Ligue 1 outfit, that proved to be a case of poking the hornets’ nest as the Catalan giants awoke in the second leg and hit PSG for six at the Nou Camp. It was the biggest comeback in the history of the competition and the magical 90 minutes had football fans around the world gripped to every second of the action. Sergi Roberto netted a last-minute goal to break PSG hearts and send Luis Enrique’s side through to the next round. Neymar netted twice in that encounter including once from the penalty spot.
Unai Emery will be praying for a kinder passage this season and he will be hoping his side can avoid either of the two La Liga giants in the early knock-out rounds. Real Madrid haven’t been firing on all cylinders so far this season and have dropped points domestically but looked imperious during their recent victory over Borussia Dortmund. It was their first ever success at Signal Iduna Park.
Other potential rivals for the Champions League title this season include Premier League sides Manchester United, City and Chelsea. The latter stunned Atletico Madrid with a last-minute winner and are led by master tactician Antonio Conte. Atletico themselves look a little short on firepower but should reach the latter stages of the event whilst Serie A behemoths Juventus are always a threat and still look extremely competent at the back despite the loss of Leonardo Bonucci. Napoli have been impressively free-scoring so far but they may just lack the experience and know-how of being able to close out games.
Many pundits have been quick to dismiss PSG’s chances of winning the competition this season suggesting it may be a season too soon for the French giants. However, with Barcelona under new management and Real Madrid struggling for consistency, Unai Emery’s side may be able to take advantage. The former Sevilla boss has a big squad at his disposal and has a rich history of managing sides in knock-out competitions. With Monaco, Lyon and Nice all regularly dropping points so far this season, his side could have an easy run to the title and can probably afford to rest players ahead of crunch Champions League ties.
Neymar claimed that his current employers have a better chance of success in the competition than Barcelona and PSG fans will be hoping the Brazilian’s theory proves to be correct. He added that one of the main reasons for defecting was to “write history” with his new club.
Emery’s men have a frightening three-pronged attack and look odds-on to finish top of their group. This may enable them to obtain a favourable draw when the knock-out phase gets underway at the end of February. PSG certainly have the tools to go all the way and Neymar has plenty of pedigree in this competition, this may just enable them to knock Real Madrid off their perch.