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PSG’s Champions League pursuit likely hampered by constant spotlight on Kylian Mbappe

PSG’s Champions League pursuit likely hampered by constant spotlight on Kylian Mbappe
Kylian Mbappe of PSG scores his first goal during the Ligue 1 match between AC Ajaccio (ACA) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade Francois Coty on 21 October, 2022 in Ajaccio, France. (Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Paris Saint-Germain is once again seeking to claim its maiden Uefa Champions League title. However, constant noise around the club and its French star Kylian Mbappe is likely to see them fall short once more.

Ever since Qatari owners seized control of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) over a decade ago, the French club’s stocks have risen dramatically.

As a demonstration, since the arrival of Qatari Sports Investment in Paris in 2011, the club has usurped the likes of Marseille and Lyon as household names of French football.

When the new owners arrived, the Parisian club had won just two French league titles since its formation in 1970. Since the Qatari cohort began pumping millions of euros into the team, it has taken its league tally to ten overall.

PSG won four Ligue 1 crowns on the trot between 2012 and 2016, before Monaco snapped their streak in 2017. The lone dominant force in French football these days then resumed its league-collecting run with three more from 2018 to 2020. They added the 10th one last season, after being denied by Lille during the 2020/2021 season.

Crown jewel

With 12 league matches played in France to date, it seems likely that PSG will add its 11th national crown, to become the French club with the most league titles. They are currently tied with Marseille and Saint-Étienne.

Nonetheless, even with all this league success in recent years, as well as a plethora of domestic trophies to complement it, the Qatari era in Paris is missing one crown jewel — the Uefa Champions League.

“Our aim is to make the club an institution respected around the world. If we are going to make that happen, we have to win the Champions League. That will take the club to a new dimension. Any team that wins it is seen differently by everyone else,” said club chairperson, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, in 2016.

So far, in spite of the money that has been pumped into the club by its current owners, this has proved beyond reach.

The closest PSG have come to winning the Champions League was in the 2019/2020 campaign, when they reached the final. They were beaten 1-0 by Bayern Munich in Lisbon

In the 2022/2023 season, they seem no closer to making this dream a reality. As expected, the team has raced into an early lead in their domestic league — five points clear of second-place Lens with a dozen games played. They have yet to taste defeat with 10 wins and two draws.

In their Champions League group, though, they have struggled for consistency.

From four games played, they have two wins and two draws. Considering that they are in a group occupied by an ailing Juventus, as well as Benfica and Maccabi Haifa (who they are streets ahead of in terms of player personnel quality), they should have more than the eight points gathered so far.


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The Mbappe effect

They will likely still make the knockout round. However, a reportedly volcanic dressing room environment — supposedly instigated by one of the club’s three star-forwards, Kylian Mbappe — may yet erupt in the face of the French side in their latest pursuit of elusive European glory.

Back in May 2022 the World Cup-winning French forward signed a new mega deal with Parisians. That put to bed raging rumours that Mbappe would move to record European champions Real Madrid.

Kylian Mbappe

Kylian Mbappe of PSG during the Ligue 1 match between AC Ajaccio (ACA) and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) at Stade Francois Coty on 21 October, 2022 in Ajaccio, France. (Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

With that, things seemed perfectly placed for Paris to make a genuine attempt at conquering the continent this season — boasting the lethal trio of Mbappe, Brazilian Neymar and Lionel Messi.

Instead, reports of disharmony off the field between the trio have overshadowed the 32 goals that they have netted between themselves so far this season.

However, according to the club’s latest manager Christophe Galtier — the reports of a toxic dressing room are far from reality.

“They constantly talk about coexistence, and it surprises me to have to talk about the same thing every week,” the Frenchman said. “The atmosphere is good. Honestly, the reality of the group is not the one that is told outside.”

Of course, it will become clearer as the season progresses. There is no doubt that when they are moving in sync, PSG can beat any team in the world. The issue lies in the fact that so far this season in the Champions League they have yet to show that unison consistently.

The Parisians clash with Maccabi Haifa in their penultimate group game on Tuesday. They should prove too strong for the Israeli club. A victory will see them qualify for the next round, where tougher challenges await.  

The best of rest

An unused substitute last time out, Erling Haaland might not face his former side Borussia Dortmund. City have already qualified and may be inclined to rest the Norwegian again. Dortmund may look to take advantage of the Norwegian’s absence and upset City to also seal a spot in the next round.

Erling Haaland of Manchester City scores the winning goal during the UEFA Champions League group G match between Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund at Etihad Stadium on 14 September, 2022 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo: Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Liverpool need only avoid defeat at Ajax to be certain of qualifying. Alfred Schreuder’s side lost 4-2 at Napoli on Matchday 4, but played better than the scoreline suggests. As such, Jürgen Klopp’s inconsistent Reds will need to be wary.

Elsewhere, Group E’s top two meet in Austria, with the Blues knowing a win would guarantee them a round of 16 spot. Salzburg held Chelsea in London in their first game under Graham Potter, and Matthias Jaissle reminded his players that they were “the youngest squad” in the competition this season, and “still haven’t lost a game”. DM

Selected Champions League fixtures:

Tuesday:

Salzburg vs Chelsea (6:45pm)

RB Leipzig vs Real Madrid (9pm)

Borussia Dortmund vs Manchester City (9pm)

Paris Saint-Germain vs Maccabi Haifa (9pm)

Wednesday:

Inter vs Plzen (6:45pm)

Ajax vs Liverpool (9pm)

Napoli vs Rangers (9pm)

Barcelona vs Bayern (9pm)

Tottenham Hotspur vs Sporting (9pm)

 

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