Will the Champions League finally come to Paris?
Every year since PSG joined football’s top table in terms of riches, everyone has been asking the same thing. Will this be the season where they turn potential, ambition and hundreds of millions of euros into European silverware? Pushing the threat of the coronavirus, and its disruption of the tournament to one side, the signs are certainly positive.
Despite domestic domination, and with respect to the other participants, Ligue 1 does not carry the same weight as some of the other European leagues, the club has not progressed the way their fans and owners would have wanted.
When Qatar Sports Investments took over the club, it was the Champions League that they fixed their sights on. So far they have fallen short, and they are still underdogs this time around. But as all sports fans know, underdogs do sometimes prevail. And this season the French outfit are looking a lot more like a team that could go all the way. Before we look at this season, how far have they got before?
PSG’s recent History in the Champions League
Since QSI took over in 2011, this is the 8th consecutive year they have been in the Champions League. Their record is poor, to say the least, especially when put next to the money they have spent.
Their first season, 2012/13, was arguably one of their most impressive. They beat Valencia in the last 16 before crashing out against Barcelona on away goals after two scoring draws in the quarter finals. The following year, they trounced Bayer Leverkusen, only to go out by away goals again in the quarters, this time to Chelsea.
In 2014/15 they repaid Chelsea, overcoming the West London team on away goals, before being outplayed by eventual winners Barcelona in the quarter finals. The following year they came up against Chelsea again, this time beating them in both legs. They went out once more in the quarter finals, this time to Manchester City, drawing 2-2 at home and losing 1-0 in Manchester in the second leg.
When it looked like they could and should push on in future seasons, that was their last appearance in the quarter finals. Since then, they have succumb in each season at the round of 16 stage. That is not good enough for a team of PSG’s ability. The old accusations surrounding their lack of regular competitive football looked like they held merit, with the players, undoubtedly talented in their own right, just not able to move up a gear when it was really needed.
What is Different This Time Around?
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Their last sixteen match against Dortmund showed a sea of change. Dortmund are not only having a good season. They are in second place in the Bundesliga and a club in form, having won their last four league games. Expectations, especially in Germany, were that their victory in the first leg, albeit at the cost of an away goal, would be enough to see BVB through to the quarter finals. After all, this was the PSG side who had consistently failed to get over the line when really pushed by a fellow top European side.
It was different though. Even without the advantage of a vociferous home crowd – something their fans did their best to overcome, they put in a resolute display and scored two unanswered goals to go through to the quarters. That result will give them untold confidence, and they will believe, probably for the first time, if as a club they are honest with themselves, that they can take on any club in Europe.
There is another side to this which also goes in the Parisians favor. The level of opposition this season is not as high as it has been. Barcelona and Real Madrid are not the forces they were. Pep Guardiola has lost more games this season than ever before in his management career, and his Manchester City side have showed weaknesses at the back that can be exploited. Liverpool have gone out.
Of course there are still quality sides left, and PSG will have to play better than they ever have before and develop a mentality where they not just believe they can win, but expect to.