UNITED STATES—For one of the richest soccer teams in the world, Paris Saint Germain don’t have much to show for it from a European perspective. Yes, the club based in the French capital is the most-decorated team in Ligue 1 in recent years, with seven of the last eight divisional titles on display in their trophy room.
As a result, the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kylian Mbappe have graced the Parc des Princes’ turf. However, even they haven’t been able to break PSG’s duck with regards to European silverware. In club soccer, that’s really all that counts. So, why is 2021 finally the year for the French champions?
Dismantling of Barcelona
Once the premier side in the world, Barcelona’s fall from grace has been incredibly pronounced. Still, the team is dominated by Lionel Messi, the greatest footballer of all time, and can call on Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong. Therefore, destroying Messi and Co. at Camp Nou is a massive step forward.
On February 16th, a Mbappe-inspired PSG side dismantled the former champs, putting themselves in an excellent position to go through to the next round. There are zero guarantees in sport, yet the performance was enough to encourage the best sports betting sites on the market like bet365 and William Hill to reduce their outright odds to around 5/1.
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) February 17, 2021
The joint favorites Bayern Munich and Manchester City are ranked at 3/1, meaning the experts believe Paris Saint Germain have a real shot at claiming the ‘European champions’ mantle.
A Steady Progression
The performance against Barcelona isn’t a one-off, something PSG have been good at in recent years. It’s a sign of progression that is moving one way – forward. The 2019/20 campaign is the biggest factor as PSG managed to go all the way to the final before being beaten by Bayern, a side that is now the owners of the World Club Cup.
However, their European form has been strong. For example, they made it to the quarter-finals of the competition for four straight years from 2012. Plus, they’ve made the last 16 every year since 2012, too. They’ve been missing the X factor, but they have it in abundance now.
No, not just Neymar and Mbappe – Mauricio Pochettino, too. “Poch”, as he’s affectionately known, is one of the most in-demand managers in world soccer due to this ability to take teams to the next level. After the Barca game, it certainly seems as if PSG are on the rise.
The Return of Neymar
What makes PSG’s Champions League last 16 Champions League performance more impressive is the fact they did it without Neymar. The Brazilian is the heir apparent to Lionel Messi’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s throne when they retire thanks to sublime skill combined with a 4K image of the pitch.
It was confirmed about a week before the match that Neymar would miss out with an adductor injury. The setback sidelined him for around a month. But the news is that he could be in contention to start in the second leg in Paris in March.
Either way, he’ll almost definitely be back for the quarter-finals, along with Angel DiMaria. When this PSG squad is back to full strength, it’s not hard to see why they are touted to take their first-ever Champions League scalp.