Thursday 16 February 2017

Are PSG now contenders to win the Champions League?

Big-spending French champions PSG’s 4-0 hammering of Spanish champions Barcelona in the last-16 of the Champions League on Tuesday night was surprising.

Unai Emery’s side recorded the first leg victory courtesy of a brace from Angel Di Maria and goals from Julian Draxler and Edinson Cavani.

The French side ripped the Spanish champions apart at times in a devastating display. Barcelona were uncharacteristically poor in Paris, but that should take nothing away from PSG’s display.

A team trying to establish themselves in the elite

For Parisians, football is probably not their biggest passion. In fact, PSG was only formed in 1970 after the merger of two separate football clubs Paris FC and Stade Saint-Germain. Compared to the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid the club is in its infancy.

PSG are not even the best-supported club in their home country. That honour falls to Marseille. However, in 2011 the club were bought by the Qatar Sports Investments. This made PSG one of the richest clubs in world football.

The new owners bought the Parisian club with the aim of dominating domestic and European football. Considering PSG had only ever even won two Ligue One titles prior to the takeover it was a tall order. The new owners set about transforming the club’s fortunes by spending heavily on big-name players, though.

One of the biggest names to represent the club was Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who only left last summer for Manchester United after helping PSG become the dominant force in French football.

A good blend in their team

PSG have continued to spend in order to strengthen their team. However, now their team seems to have a good blend of players. Boss Unai Emery did not enjoy the best start at the club, but the team have now settled and look to be back on track.

Argentinian playmaker Angel Di Maria was the key player against Barcelona. The 29-year-old pulled the strings and got himself two goals. He seems to have been outstanding at every club he has represented, except in the Premier League for Manchester United.

In the centre of midfield, they had the magnificent Marco Verratti, who controlled the midfield and orchestrated the play. Barcelona struggled to contain the 24-year-old. The Italian international has recently been linked with a move to Barcelona. However, he has recently has stated he wishes to remain in Paris.

If PSG do not establish themselves among the elite then the midfielder is likely to be off to pastures new in the near future. Then there is sharpshooter Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan is much-maligned, but he once again proved he knows where the back of the net is against Barcelona.

One of the players that produced another superb display was German winger Julian Draxler. He scored and offered a constant attacking threat to the Barcelona defence. The German international only moved to Paris in the January window.

Already there will be other clubs wondering why they did not sign the highly talented German star in January. Premier League Arsenal had long been considered suitors for Draxler. The Gunners loss is definitely PSG’s gain.

Still a long shot to win the competition

Tuesday’s win over Barcelona was impressive. However, the team from the French capital had struggled for results earlier in the season and showed that they do have major weaknesses. They will certainly be expected to make it past Barcelona into the quarter-finals, considering the size of their lead heading to the Nou Camp for the second leg.

Emery’s side have even jumped to odds of 6/1 to win the trophy this season, which makes them third favourites to be European champions. It is difficult to judge PSG on that one game in isolation. Everything went right for them, while Barcelona had a catastrophically bad night at the office.

PSG have made it to the quarter-finals of Europe’s elite competition in the last four seasons and look set to do so once again. In terms of Champions League experience, though, they are novices when it comes to the big event, having appeared in the competition in just 11 seasons.

At the moment the mood will be optimistic amongst everybody connected with the French club. However, they still have a long way to go to prove that they are truly ready to be part of the elite of European football.

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