Why PSG Can Win The Champions League
Could Paris Saint-Germain win the Champions League in 2014? Today on the blog French football writer Andrew Gibney takes a look at their chances this season.
He may have left the club this summer but the legacy of former Sporting Director Leonardo is clear to see all over the current Paris Saint-Germain side. He famously remarked after an away loss to Stade de Reims that the team wasn’t built for matches of such ilk, and as they were narrowly beaten in the Quarter-Finals by Barcelona on goal difference it was hard to argue for the former Milan star. His parting gift to the Parisians was delivering Uruguayan superstar Edinson Cavani. Now PSG are equipped to attack European football’s golden goose, they could even shock everyone and go all the way.
Last Season's Campaign
After shaking off the cobwebs and progressing fairly unscathed from the Group stage Carlo Ancelotti’s men would face two Spanish sides. Against Valencia a professional performance in the Mestalla chalked up two away goals and a steady and straightforward 1-1 draw at the Parc des Princes set up the glamour tie with FC Barcelona. In the first battle there was a lovely play from Dani Alves to find Lionel Messi, the little Argentine did the rest and the Spaniards looked in control. Zlatan being Zlatan wasn’t going to be upstaged and put away a chance after Thiago Silva hit the bar with a header. Xavi’s penalty would again suggest the tie was over as a contest but les Rouge-et-Bleu would show fight, and Blaise Matuidi, often the beating heart of this side found an equaliser in the 94th minute, giving the French side a fighting chance.
In the Nou Camp the home side would be given a shock when Javier Pastore put PSG ahead in the tie, but the mixture of missed chances and Pedro’s 71st minute equaliser would see Barcelona sweat, but ultimately see the tie through. UEFA.com’s official match report summed up PSG’s failings; “For all PSG's enterprise, they failed to find the killer touch before the break and were punished by Messi.”
PSG's Chances This Season
With this in mind Leonardo went to work this summer. Welcome Napoli striker Edinson Cavani. When you fail to be clinical in front of goal you bring in one of Europe’s top strikers. Cavani scored 29 goals for Napoli in Serie A last season, add that to Ibrahimovic’s 30 league goals and you have potentially one of the most potent partnerships in World football. Two years ago Cavani scored five goals in Champions League as Napoli impressed before succumbing to Chelsea in the last 16, add 12 goals in the Europa League in the last three years and you have a genuine top level striker, as if there was any doubt.
Many believe that if PSG had been able to play a clinical striker against Barcelona then the result would have been different, of course Messi going off injured in the first-leg may have played a huge part, but the chances were there for the taking, beaten on away goals, the margins are tiny. The bookmakers can obviously see the potential and have been cautious with their odds. Sky Bet are offering the best price at odds of 19.00 – level with Juventus, and ahead of finalists Borussia Dortmund. BetFred and Ladbrokes have them as short as odds of 13.00, that’s the same odds as Manchester United. David Moyes side’s stock may have slipped, but that is still a huge compliment. Understandably they are behind Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Chelsea but they are now classed as one of Europe’s elite, and quite rightly.
Another year of Qatari money has not only brought in Cavani but the squad is in-fact deeper and stocked with quality. Lucas Digne arrives from Lille for €15 million, and although only 20, he has already played in the Champions League group stage, and is an U20 World Cup winner. Marquinhos joins from Roma for the paltry sum of €35 million and replaces the outgoing Mamadou Sakho in the defence. He will be looking to displace Alex at the heart of the defence and partner possibly the best centre-back in football, Thiago Silva. Youngsters Adrien Rabiot and Hervin Ongenda will play their part and are definitely worth watching; both impressing, the former enjoyed a successful loan spell at Toulouse and looked a class apart as France made the final of the U19 European Championships.
The Parisians have been dealt a fairly uncompromising hand in the Group stage. There should be no trouble in negotiating past Benfica, Anderlecht and Olympiakos, full respect to them, but it would be very surprising if they didn’t top the group. The Portuguese side will be the biggest test, and the group should be sorted before they have to visit the Estádio da Luz in December.
Then it becomes somewhat of a lottery. Depending on whom finishes second among the other seven groups will determine who PSG get next, and that could include Juventus, Manchester City, Dortmund or AC Milan. It certainly won’t be easy, but the experience gained over the two legs against Barcelona will become invaluable, and you would fancy PSG to challenge any side in Europe over two-legs.
Can PSG Win The Champions League?
In order for PSG to go all the way the midfield has to perform to the best of its ability, this is weak spot in the Parisian armour. Frenchman Blaise Matuidi is superb and is becoming vital to this side, but the midfield is still void of a World Class player. Thiago Motta, Javier Pastore and Marco Verratti are all quality players and superb on their day, but are liable to underperform. Matuidi is the heart and soul of this side and he will make the difference if the Parisians are to go all the way this season. At 26-years-old this is his time to put himself in the World Class category.
It was Matuidi that scored late on to pull level with Barcelona last season. Bet Victor will give you odds of 26.00 for PSG and Barcelona to contest the final in Benfica’s Estádio da Luz come May 24th. Laurent Blanc’s may not have been first choice to take over from Ancelotti, and his two-year deal depends on Champions League success, imagine the smug look on his face if he was able to led out his new side against his former club. Blaise Matuidi will hope he can be as influential in making that happen, and with Cavani in the front-line they could just go one better and win it all.
PSG 2013 Champions League Odds
|Win Champions League||17.00||13.00||13.00||15.00||17.00|
|Qualify For Last 16||1.08||1.08||1.05||1.07||1.07|
Odds as at 15th September 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter: @Gibney_A
And read more of his work at FrenchFootballWeekly.com