Friday, September 29, 2023

Paris in search of certainty in the Champions League

On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, Thomas Tuchel’s Paris Saint-Germain defeated Dortmund (2-0) and qualified for the quarterfinals of the Champions League (C1). This last clash between the two clubs was marked both by a happy outcome for the Parisians and by an unprecedented health situation. When the Covid-19 epidemic got out of control, the match had to be held in a Parc des Princes empty of spectators.

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On Tuesday, September 19, the two teams find themselves in a completely different context. In a stadium that will be full this time, PSG and Borussia Dortmund (BVB) will try to get their 2023-2024 Champions League campaign off to a good start with profoundly changed squads. PSG, now coached by the Spanish Luis Enrique, only has three players present in 2020 in its group (Kylian Mbappé, Marquinhos and Keylor Navas).

In order not to find themselves in a delicate situation at the beginning of the season after mixed results in the league, the Parisians would do well to beat BVB on Tuesday, as their predecessors had done three years earlier.

“A process that takes time”

Eight points in five games. Since the acquisition of the club in 2011 by the sovereign fund Qatar Sports Investments, Paris Saint-Germain has had its worst start to the French championship. You have to go back to the 2010-2011 season to find the capital club with so few points. Antoine Kombouaré’s players had only obtained seven points in five games.

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However, since the arrival of Luis Enrique at the helm of PSG, the face shown by the current French champions is convincing. 72% ball possession on average, 17 shots on goal attempted per game… The statistics suggest that the Spanish coach masters the subject.

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But the former Barça coach knows, for this dominance to turn into victory it takes time. “ We haven’t started the season very well, but every time I arrive (in a new club), It is always so. There is a lot of information, ideas, concepts that players must assimilate, the Parisian coach said this Monday. I see it as a process that takes time. I know it’s hard to ask that, the way things work. »

In Ligue 1, the Parisians are increasingly assimilating their coach’s playing principles, especially in attack. This allowed them to achieve two convincing victories against Lens (3-1, August 26, at the Parc des Princes) and Lyon (4-1, September 3, at Parc OL). However, they could not avoid the defeat (2-3) against Nice on September 15 at the Parc des Princes, during their last match to date.

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The Champions League is not an “obsession”

But, like every year, it is in the Champions League where PSG is expected. In recent seasons, and although they reached the final of the Champions League in 2020, the Parisians have never managed to translate their national supremacy to the European scene (nine French champion titles in eleven years).

Winner of the Champions League in 2015 with Barcelona, ​​the Paris Saint-Germain coach keeps repeating that to perform well in this competition you don’t have to focus everything on it. “ When a team, a club, is obsessed with something, it is never a good sign. You have to have hope, ambition, but obsession never works, in any area of ​​life. »


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A speech that seems to have also gone down well among his players. “The Champions League is neither an obsession nor a pressure. “We want to get to the top but we know the path, we know that it is long, that we have to take it step by step.” Marquinhos, captain of PSG, confided a few minutes after his coach.

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However, in this Group F (which also includes AC Milan and Newcastle), perhaps the toughest of the 2023-2024 edition of the Champions League, false starts are strongly discouraged.

At home, against a team that is still training at the start of the season (Dortmund is seventh in the German championship after four games), Kylian Mbappé and his partners have the opportunity to start their European campaign well. Against BVB, the Parisians will have to rely on the speed of their offensive elements to try to deceive a rather slow German central defense. For this reason, Ousmane Dembélé is eagerly awaited, who will once again face his former club. If a big night awaits PSG’s French international, Luis Enrique has a good chance of getting his first points in C1 with Paris Saint-Germain.

Times of National
Times of National
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