French champions Paris Saint-Germain have emerged as one of the most formidable teams of the 21st century. They have won 34 trophies since the turn of the century, with 29 of those coming in the last decade itself, including eight Ligue 1 titles and six French Cups. Having thoroughly dominated the domestic scene, their sights are now set on continental glory, with the UEFA Champions League being their Holy Grail. Despite their lofty aspirations, in a decade of trying to get their hands on the biggest prize in European club football since the transformational Qatari takeover, PSG has only played one final in their history in 2020 and will be eager to make it to the grand event for a second time this season. Considering the resources they have at their disposal they have been fancied as favorites on multiple occasions but they have yet to realize their full potential on the European stage. Having said that, they are very much the favorites to get there this term and with the plethora of talent within their squad, they will be one of the teams to beat this campaign. There are several reasons why the Parisians are in a good spot this year and Christophe Galtier does have the French champions playing better this season than they have done in previous years, but are we now set for them to finally lift the famous trophy in Istanbul or another disappointingly early exit for Neymar, Messi, and Mbappe?
It’s worth mentioning too that the Parisians’ journey to the knockout stage has not been perfect. Despite coming out of the first phase with two wins over Juventus and without suffering a defeat, two lackluster draws to Benfica meant they had to settle for second in the group stage. This was compounded further when they drew Bundesliga powerhouses Bayern Munich, further posing a threat to their hopes of breaking their Champions League duck. It’s hardly the ideal draw so early on into the knockout stage but if they can come through there will be many who consider them as favorites for the whole thing, and with good cause. Mbappe stayed put, turning down Real Madrid in the hope he can lead his hometown club to a first Champions League title. According to these betting sites, PSG is +700 to win the Champions League this year. Neymar Jr. has been a player transformed in recent months, with his injury concerns and doubts about his motivation cast aside as he has scored nine goals already this season. Messi started the 2022/23 season in fine fashion too, scoring twice and providing an assist in PSG’s Ligue 1 opening-day win over Clermont Foot, and has carried that momentum through to the World Cup with Argentina. With all three firings, there are few defenses in the world that could cope, even in Europe’s elite competition.
Tactically, new head coach Galtier is one of the most astute coaches in France. He conquered Ligue 1 with Lille in the 2020/21 season and helped Nice go deep into the French Cup last season, knocking current club PSG out in the process. Now in charge of a much more resourceful team, Galtier has signed all his preferred personnel and played the brand of football he desires. Every world-class, Champions League-conquering team has had formidable midfielders at their disposal but PSG was severely lacking that until this Summer. With Vitinha and Renato Sanches acquired by the team, Paris Saint-Germain finally has a midfield that can give the best in the world a run for their money. They have a world-class controller in Marco Verratti. Vitinha is astute at pinging passes to his teammates. Finally, Sanches has the technical and physical qualities to barge into the opposition half and make a difference. PSG has also signed former Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, adding more creativity and control to Paris Saint-Germain’s promising midfield. Galtier has transformed the style of play, made evident through pre-season fixtures and the Ligue 1 clash against Clermont Foot, Galtier prefers a three-man backline, with two wingbacks operating further up the pitch. Les Parisiens are lightning-quick during transitions and every player is being worked extra hard to maintain a compact shape. It is hard to predict whether his tactics will hold up in the Champions League round of 16 against the Bavarian outfit, but by the looks of it, Galtier’s system has a lot going for it.
For many going into the tournament, the only weakness that remained was in their defense. They failed to bring in a central defender like the hotly-tipped Slovakian international Milan Skriniar. Galtier has installed a three-man central defense, but now has no specialist backup to the trio of Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe, and Sergio Ramos. However, the latter is showing he still has more to give. Having run down his contract with Real Madrid, Sergio Ramos joined Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent in the summer of 2021. The four-time Champions League winner was expected to bring much-needed experience to the team, but injuries and fitness issues kept him from playing in a single UCL match. Through sheer will and hard work, Ramos has bounced back this season, commendably recovering from his injuries to play a crucial role in a defense that has conceded only nine goals in 15 games, helping the Parisians to five points clear at top of the table with an unbeaten record. If he can keep injuries at bay, the four-time Champions League winner’s mentality could help the Parisians immensely in their quest to conquer the tournament.
For Paris Saint-Germain, each season begins with the question of whether this might be their year in the Champions League. Galtier’s arrival shows that the club is more determined than ever to ensure there is no repeat of recent history and that ambition has filtered down the three key men. Neymar has let go of his previously indisciplined ways and is eager to become an integral member of the Parisians’ squad. Mbappe has steadily announced himself as one of, if not the best player in the world with a stellar record in this competition. Between AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, Mbappe has featured in 53 Champions League games scoring 33 goals and claiming a further 23 assists. If they are to go one step further he’ll need to add to that tally. And then there is the GOAT, Messi. Now settled in at PSG, the veteran forward will fancy himself to have a more fruitful Champions League campaign this time around. He needs to carry over his domestic form to Europe, and the Parisians will have a great shot at winning their maiden Champions League trophy this season. Simply put, PSG has the arsenal to beat anyone in this competition; see off Bayern and there should only be a handful of teams that can stop their charge on the title.