Group Stage Fan Preview: Paris Saint-Germain

When the midweek lights turn on at the Parc des Princes for the first time since valentine’s day, the fans filling the stands and the players on the pitch will have gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. Since the mauling of FC Barcelona in February, PSG have gone from the elation of that night to the crippling humiliation of the return leg, all ending in disappointment as they finished second in Ligue 1 to the prolific AS Monaco. If I was asked to write this at the end of last season, it would definitely be a different tone. Low expectations and a general sense of disappointment in a team of mercenaries was shared around Ile-de-France at the dusk of the 2016/17 season, but the tide has turned.

In what could probably be considered one of the greatest transfer windows of all time, Nasser Al-Khelaifi pulled off a financial and accounting masterclass, simultaneously keeping Marco Verratti out of FC Barcelona’s hands while stealing away their brightest star, Neymar Jr, in an unforgettable coup. However with only days remaining, the Qatari businessman was not done, securing the world-class talent of 18-year old Kylian Mbappe on an initial loan with an obligation to buy- all without forgetting the early purchase of the competent left-back Yuri Berchiche and world-class right-back Dani Alves, all while getting rid of the most deadwood possible in Grzegorz Krychowiak, Serge Aurier and Jean-Kevin Augustin.

While transfers can go both ways, Neymar has proven that PSG have set their ambitions very, very high, and you can be sure that, despite not being able to find that missing fourth centre-back, he’s not alone. In terms of attack, les Parisiens have one of the best in europe, knocking on FC Bayern Munich and Real Madrid’s front doors.A few issues still remain of course, as the midfield depth is limited past Marco Verratti and Adrien Rabiot, eventually forcing the club to rely on the injury-ridden Javier Pastore, the ageing Thiago Motta and the largely unproven Christopher Nkunku if all goes badly. Fortunately, the group stage draw seems to point otherwise.

Most, if not all PSG fans were pleasantly surprised with the champions league draw, providing a healthy mix of top-level competition in German champions Bayern Munich, and two teams good enough to give the French cub a run for their money- Celtic and Anderlecht. While the games against Bayern will definitely test the Parisian midfield, the club’s main concern lies past the group stage as their ambitions are rightfully higher than ever.

With certain betting sites putting PSG among the favourites to win the illustrious Champions league trophy, the real tests will come in the knock-out rounds and, as always, will probably come down to a question of luck in the draw, something the French team are notoriously bad at. So can they go all the way this year? I doubt it. Next year though? I’d get my betting slip out already.

By: Louis Jacques

Photo: AP