This season’s Champions League looks set to be one of the most competitive in years, with most of Europe’s biggest sides about to face off in the round of 16 beginning next week.
The current favourites to win the famous trophy are Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City, but right behind them – with odds of 13/2 – are French champions Paris St-Germain. Les Parisiens have been hunting for a Champions League victory for some time now, but in recent years the furthest they’ve gotten in the competition has been the quarter-finals.
Could 2019-20 be the campaign that finally sees Thomas Tuchel’s side lift the trophy that has become their holy grail? Quite possibly – and here are 3 reasons why:
It goes without saying that to win games of football, you’ve got to score goals. Sure, teams have won huge competitions like the Champions League before by largely playing defensive football before nicking a goal on the counter – think Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in 2009-10 – but for the most part, firepower wins matches. And right now, no European team has quite so much firepower as Paris St-Germain.
The French champions can call upon one of the most terrifying frontlines in all of football in the form of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and new signing Mauro Icardi, and in Edinson Cavani – who failed to secure a move away from the Parc des Princes in January – they have a truly world-class backup striker too.
Add in other world-class attackers like Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler, it’s no surprise that PSG plundered 17 goals in their 6 Champions League group games – with only Bayern Munich scoring more in what was arguably a weaker group.
Essentially, Thomas Tuchel’s team have the attacking ability to out-score – and thus to defeat – any other side in Europe. And that alone makes them a serious contender to win the Champions League this season.
Ever since their takeover at the hands of Qatari Sports Investments in the summer of 2011, Paris St-Germain have been recognised as one of the richest and most powerful football clubs in the world. But despite spending an insane amount of money in the years that have followed, they haven’t been able to find the right formula to win the Champions League yet.
The summer of 2019, though, may well end up looked back upon as the summer in which PSG finally got things right. A lot of money was once again spent on new talent – almost €100m in fact – but where Les Parisiens had previously focused on bringing in big-name stars with little regard to how they might fit into a team, Thomas Tuchel instead made some extremely smart signings.
Bringing Mauro Icardi – a world-class centre-forward – was a masterstroke, and the Argentine has already combined with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to score a tremendous 18 goals in 27 appearances.
But PSG didn’t just focus on firepower – they also brought in Everton’s powerful holding midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who has given the French giants a much tougher spine than they once had, and a proven top-class goalkeeper in the form of Keylor Navas.
Basically, it’s hard to pinpoint a weakness in PSG’s arsenal, and when you add in the fact that Tuchel is now in his second season at the Parc des Princes and knows his squad inside out, it’s hard to overlook them as a possible favourite for Champions League glory.
One thing in PSG’s favour, if they are to capture the Champions League this season, is the fact that the majority of Europe’s other giants don’t look all that hot right now.
The usual suspects – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and holders Liverpool – all remain in the competition, but outside of the Reds, none of them have been in the kind of irresistible form that PSG have shown in 2019-20.
Real have only lost three games this season, but haven’t really been firing on all cylinders with new signings Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic both struggling, and of course, they were beaten by PSG in the group stages of the Champions League in one-sided fashion. Barcelona meanwhile have changed manager – from Ernesto Valverde to Quique Setien – and look more vulnerable than ever. If it wasn’t for the genius of Lionel Messi, who knows where they’d be?
Juventus meanwhile face a fight to retain the Scudetto and look ponderous at times, a little too reliable on the goals of Cristiano Ronaldo, while Manchester City’s problems have been well-documented – issues in their defence and with key players ageing, and that’s without mentioning their recent troubles with UEFA.
Essentially, if you don’t consider the chances of an outsider like Borussia Dortmund or Tottenham, PSG – who haven’t lost a game since November and seemed unstoppable in the group stages of the Champions League – appear to be the most in-form of Europe’s biggest sides, meaning this could be the campaign that their quest for European glory comes to a triumphant end.