It’s no secret that Paris Saint-Germain’s primary goal is winning the UEFA Champions League and the lack of a title run in recent years has come to not only define the club but several players.
Through four games of the group stage, PSG has yet to allow a goal and have won every single game, including a 3-0 win over Real Madrid on Matchday 1. Another win over Los Blancos next Tuesday will see PSG clinch the top spot in Group A, which will set them up for hopefully a favorable draw in the knockout phase of the tournament.
As we all know from previous seasons, though, there’s no easy game for PSG once the Round of 16 begins. We’ve seen this team throw away big leads and lose to inferior opponents. If there’s a way to capitulate, PSG will find it. Could this season be different?
We’ve never seen PSG be this dominate in the group stage before, especially on the defensive end. Due to injuries to key players, Thomas Tuchel hasn’t had his full squad available to him for the entire season so far. This is the first time we’ve seen PSG have to grind out results and they’re doing a pretty good job of it.
The knockout phase is where we’ll truly learn if this team is different or if they’re still plagued by those devastating losses to FC Barcelona and Manchester United.
Several players, in particular, have something to prove on Europe’s grandest stage. Below are four players I believe are under the most pressure to perform under the bright lights of the Champions League:
The Brazilian is set to return to training this week and expected to play on Friday against Lille OSC. It will be his first time testing his hamstring against Ligue 1 competition and it will be a good trial to see how he holds up. With Real Madrid looming the following Tuesday, it will be important for him to finish the game healthy.
Injuries have really been the story of Neymar’s career at PSG. He hasn’t been on the pitch for the club’s most important games in the Champions League and this season must be different. His image has taken a huge hit and he needs a marquee performance with everyone watching to remind them why he is one of the best three players in the world.
It’s hard to imagine a 20-year-old being under pressure but Mbappé is not a normal 20-year-old. With a FIFA World Cup already under his belt and an appearance in the semi-finals of the Champions League with AS Monaco to his name, the Frenchman knows he can only ascend as a player at PSG if he can lead the team to an appearance in the finals of the Champions League.
The loss to the Red Devils last season dented his pristine reputation as a player but a spectacular run this season could return the polish. With several international tournaments next summer, Mbappé could very well win the World Cup, Champions League, Ligue 1, Olympic gold, and a UEFA Euro 2020 title before the start of next season. That’s an impressive run that not even the great Lionel Messi could match in his wildest dreams.
Angel Di Maria
Fideo has been my most valuable player for PSG this season. With many of his teammates out due to injury, he’s led PSG’s attack and has performed at an elite level, especially when it comes to passing the ball. The criticism for the Argentine has always been that he’s too inconsistent when it comes to big games. Di Maria has a Champions League title to his name with Real Madrid but you have to believe that after everything he’s been through since leaving La Liga, that another title where he plays a major role would be even more to him at this stage in his career.
PSG’s center-back is under immense pressure to perform as his contract runs out at the end of the season. Silva has expressed that he would like to stay in Paris per France Football (via Get French Football News) and continue to grow the club. Whether he does so or not depends on if the 35-year-old can continue to contribute at a high level throughout the entire season. So far, he’s been able to do that but it will be in the Champions League where sporting director Leonardo will make his determinations.
Who do you think is under the most pressure to deliver in the Champions League? Let us know in the comments or find us on Twitter @PSGTalk.
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