PSG Receive Favorable Draw in Champions League

The road to Cardiff began on Thursday for Paris Saint-Germain as the draw for the UEFA Champions League took place in Monaco. When the balls in each pot were selected, the reigning French champions found themselves in a group with Arsenal, Basel, and Ludogorets.

On the surface, this appears to be a very winnable group for PSG—as if new manger Unai Emery needs anymore pressure. Travel shouldn’t be too much of an issue and Arsenal is the only real threat to take points off of them.

During the group stage, our aim will be to win every game. We want to finish top of the group. I have total confidence in the coach and our players that they will achieve that. We’re ready. —Nasser Al-Khelaifi, PSG Chairman and CEO

Heading into the first match against Arsenal on September 13, PSG will be the favorites to top the group and after crashing out of last year’s tournament at the hands of Manchester City, the capital club have a lot to prove against another one of England’s top clubs.

PSG have only faced Arsenal twice in their history in European competition (1993-94 Cup Winners’ Cup semi finals) but between them, they share a number of France national team players and Arsène Wenger should be familiar with the PSG project as it was reported the club was interested in hiring him to be their new manager a few years ago. Given the North London club’s lack of trophies and complete capitulation against top teams of late, you have to say PSG dodged a bullet there.

Arsenal is capable of beating anyone on their day but PSG might be playing them at the right time. The Gunners have recorded one point from their first two games and tension between the club and its supporters seem to be at an all-time high.

Arsenal have a very winnable schedule before they head to the Parc des Princes, facing Watford away and then Southampton at home three days prior. It will either be a chance to gain momentum and right the ship or they will continue their downward spiral.

PSG, while undefeated, haven’t been setting the world on fire either. Sure, Layvin Kurzawa is playing out of his mind but Edinson Cavani’s shocking performance against FC Metz doesn’t leave supporters with a whole lot of confidence, especially since he’ll likely be marked by Laurent Koscielny. Marco Verratti is slowly coming back from his injury but he should be fully fit in time for the match. Jesé likely won’t be available due to appendicitis surgery and the international break just prior to the match could claim a few other big names. Barring any setbacks, Emery should be able to field a solid team capable of beating Arsenal and secure the three points.

The first match against Arsenal offers Emery and PSG a fantastic opportunity to not only send a message to the English side that they are competing for second place in the group, but that French football is alive and well—with AS Monaco and Olympique Lyonnais joining them in the Champions League. Winning the group comfortably will do wonders for the confidence of the team and given their opponents, I fully expect them to do so.

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Photograph by VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Tags Arsenal Basel Champions League Edinson Cavani Javier Pastore Jesé Rodriguez Layvin Kurzawa Ludogorets Marco Verratti Nasser Al-Khelaifi Unai Emery
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