On the evening of August, 23, social media was abuzz with images of Neymar crying as he forlornly walked past the UEFA Champions League Trophy in Lisbon. Fans of rival club Olympique de Marseille even took to the streets to celebrate PSG’s loss denouncing the Parisians as a cursed team destined never to lift Europe’s premier silverware.
What fans of rival clubs may not understand though is that the Champions League Final loss in Lisbon was not the end of the dream for PSG, it was only a deferral. It is not a case of ‘if’ PSG will win the Champions League, rather it is simply a matter of ‘when’, which helps to explain why they were so heavily backed by those placing a live bet earlier this month. It certainly wasn’t just PSG supporters who thought their time had finally come.
Thomas Tuchel and his squad will undoubtedly still be feeling the hurt of the loss to Bayern Munich but they can be comforted by a campaign that was filled with pride and the fact that the club are already amongst the sportsbook favorites to win next season’s competition.
With that in mind, let’s look back on a campaign that saw PSG overcome the mental shackles that have plagued them in previous Champions League campaigns, where better to start than the beginning…
The Group Stages
In recent years the Champions League has thrown up some hotly contested groups, but this year PSG was handed a seemingly straightforward group. Real Madrid was the only team capable of posing a threat to Thomas Tuchel’s side in Group A, with Club Brugge and Galatasaray proving to be nothing more than whipping boys.
If there were fears that Real Madrid would steal top spot from PSG, they were resoundingly laid to rest after the first round of fixtures with goals from Angel Di Maria and Thomas Meunier sealing a comfortable 3-0 for PSG over the Spanish giants at Parc des Princes.
Galatasaray and Club Brugge were swotted aside home and away with PSG only dropping points in their fifth group game away at the Bernabeu where late goals from Kylian Mbappé and Pablo Sarabia secured a dramatic 2-2 draw.
All that meant that PSG qualified for the knockout stages by finishing top of their group, dropping only two points, and finishing five ahead of their nearest challengers Real Madrid.
Round of 16
After painful exits at the same stage in the past two seasons, there were plenty of nerves after this year’s first-leg round when PSG slipped to a 2-1 loss away to German side Borussia Dortmund. Fan’s minds were suddenly cast back to the prior season when PSG somehow contrived to exit at the same stage to a distinctly average Manchester United side.
Despite there being no fans inside the Parc des Princes for the second leg – the game was one of the first to be played behind closed doors – PSG managed to put in a battling performance for their fans.
First-half goals from Neymar and Juan Bernat sealed the tie 3-2 on aggregate, but it was the cool, calm, and collected performance of the second half that really stood out to fans. The player’s ability to rise above the mental scars of previous seasons to see out the game was a sign that they had grown and were ready to go further in this tournament than ever before.
Football around the world was put on hold, meaning that there was a gap of five months between PSG’s win over Dortmund in the Round of 16 and their quarter-final clash against Italian side Atalanta.
Neutrals around the world were cheering for Atalanta from the first minute of this game with the Italian side seen as the feel-good story of the competition.
When Mario Pasalic opened the scoring for the Italian in the 26th minute it seemed as though the writing was on the walls, Atalanta were destined to win.
Indeed, it felt like that right until the very last minute of the second half when Marquinhos broke Atalanta hearts with a late equalizer before Eric Choupo-Moting compounded the heartbreak by scoring a late winner deep into injury time.
RB Leipzig was all that stood in the way of PSG and a first Champions League Final, but the Germans would be no pushovers we were told. Under the stewardship of Julian Nagelsmann Leipzig had been one of the most impressive teams in the Bundesliga both before and after the Covid-19 restart.
They proved no match for a rejuvenated and determined PSG side though with goals from Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria putting the French side into a commanding 2-0 lead at half-time.
Any hopes of a comeback for the German side were dashed ten minutes after the restart when Juan Bernat added a third to confirm PSG’s victory and send them to the final in Lisbon.
Unfortunately, that was to be PSG’s last goal in the tournament but don’t bet against them reaching the final once again next season and perhaps even winning the tournament…
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