Heading into the weekend, Paris Saint-Germain sits in second place in Ligue 1, just three points back of Olympique Lyonnais.
PSG supporters, and those who use football betting sites, expect three points against mid-table side Stade Brestois 29 to give new manager, Mauricio Pochettino, his first win, but nothing is certain this season.
Through 18 Ligue 1 matches, PSG already has four losses and three draws. It’s partly why Thomas Tuchel is no longer the manager. After years of dominating the French league (seven championships in eight seasons), Les Parisiens are very much in uncharted territory.
Could this be a good thing? Since the Qatar Sports Investments takeover in 2011, critics in the media have consistently blasted PSG for underperforming in the UEFA Champions League and blamed the perceived weak competition in Ligue 1 as the reason why. Put simply, they contend that PSG aren’t tested throughout the season, and then when they come up against a Real Madrid or FC Barcelona in the Champions League, they aren’t prepared and are overrun.
That argument went out the window last season as PSG finally broke through the glass ceiling and reached the Champions League final, which they lost 1-0 to FC Bayern Munich. But let’s pretend the media has been right all along. Let’s assume that a more challenging domestic league translates to better Champions League results. Well, that would mean the club stands to win it all this season, right?
If only things were that easy. However, I do think there is something to be said for more competitive games leading to the players being better prepared to battle through adversity when the bright lights of the Champions League are turned on.
Pochettino won’t be able to rotate his squad too much against French opponents as he needs every point he can get. Making matters more difficult is the fact that Lyon, Lille OSC, Stade Rennais, Olympique de Marseille, and even AS Monaco, who beat PSG already this season, are all much improved. None of these clubs are afraid of PSG and while they may not have the depth that PSG has, they have quality players sprinkled throughout their squad.
Even mid-tier teams, like AS Saint-Etienne and FC Girondins de Bordeaux, have drawn against PSG this season. The amount of “easy” Ligue 1 games for PSG has dwindled and that might be a good thing for a team trying to learn under a new manager and stay focused after a tumultuous 2020.
We won’t know if a more competitive Ligue 1 will pay off for PSG until February 16, when PSG travels to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona in the Round of 16 of the Champions League. If they’re able to win convincingly, PSG may have Ligue 1 to thank for pushing them this season.
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