5 Reasons why PSG can win the Champions League
Paris Saint-Germain are now in their third season as one of European football’s superpowers – and they might just translate that status into a genuine European Cup challenge this season. Here’s five reasons why they’re real contenders.
1 – Good Form
Of the remaining European Cup contenders, PSG are playing in the weakest league. After a couple of years struggling to assert their dominance in Ligue 1, this year has been a breeze despite the threat of another newly-rich club, Monaco. Claudio Ranieri’s side haven’t been able to seriously challenge PSG, however, and the capital club will win the title comfortably.
Clearly, there’s a question mark about the significance of easy wins over relatively minnows. Nevertheless, the fact remains that PSG have won their last nine matches in all competitions, keeping seven clean sheets. Not only will this give them great confidence coming into the tie against Chelsea, it also means their position in Ligue 1 allows them to rest players ahead of European Cup matches.
2 – Ibrahimovic
OK, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has never truly shone in the European Cup, but his record this season suggests he’s ready to set the record straight. 10 goals in 7 European matches is an outstanding record – of course, he now has to translate that into vital contributions in the knockout stage too.
Ibrahimovic’s role at PSG is about more than scoring goals, however. He also acts as the side’s chief playmaker, in a starting XI that often lacks a genuinely creative attacking midfielder, with Javier Pastore used rarely, and Lucas Moura generally a supersub. He drops deep from his centre-forward role, and is capable of playing excellent through-balls for teammates running in behind, with Edinson Cavani a similarly devastating finisher.
Ibrahimovic is both PSG’s top goalscorer and their top assistor this season. It means they’re ultra-dependent upon him, but at his best, few can compete with his raw quality.
3 – The Right Balance in Midfield
Stylistically, football has changed slightly over the past couple of seasons. Whereas Barcelona’s dominance seemed to prompt everyone in Europe to play highly technical possession football there’s been a slight shift towards a more physical brand of play, based around energy, strength and tenacity.
PSG use two extremely physical players in midfield – Thiago Motta sits at the base of the trio and while he’s a fine, reliable user of possession, he’s also capable of storming into tackles and pressing opponents relentlessly. To his left, Blaise Matuidi is ultra-energetic and shuttles forward relentlessly to keep the tempo of the game high. Yohan Cabaye, the January signing from Newcastle who hasn’t yet established himself in the side, is also capable of strong tackles.
But there’s technical brilliance too, in the form of small, slender Italian playmaker Marco Verratti, who starts right-of-centre and orchestrates play from very deep positions. This blend of physicality and technical play should serve PSG well.
4 – A Solid Defence
Put simply, PSG have the best centre-back in the world. Thiago Silva developed into a world-class player at Milan, then took the trip to Paris at the same time as Ibrahimovic to ensure PSG were sorted at both ends of the field.
Silva will captain Brazil at this summer’s World Cup, underlining his leadership qualities, but his all-round defensive play is superb. Dominant in the air, quick across the ground and rarely guilty of diving into tackles, no current centre-back can match his all-round ability.
PSG might also have the world’s future best centre-back. Marquinhos cost a staggering €31m when signed from Roma last summer, and although less imposing than Silva, is more mobile. A third Brazilian centre-back, and someone well known to Chelsea fans, Alex, will also be important. He’s a solid, underrated defender who is formidable in the air.
5 – Preparation Time
Jose Mourinho has frequently complained that the Premier League aren’t flexible enough with their fixture list, and don’t move matches to allow its sides an extended rest ahead of European trips.
He has often used France as an example of how things should be done – for years, Ligue 1 has brought matches forward to the Friday evening before European clashes, where possible, and PSG will benefit from an extra day’s rest ahead of the meeting with Chelsea. They beat Reims on Friday, whereas Chelsea lost at Crystal Palace on Saturday afternoon.
This process will be repeated if PSG make the semi-finals, too. As well as allowing the players extra rest, it means Blanc can spend extra time drilling his players on the training ground for the specific threat of the upcoming opposition.
April 2nd, 2014 by Michael Cox
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