Dream and Nightmare Scenarios for PSG’s Champions League Draw

The big event for Paris Saint-Germain this coming week is arguably the UEFA Champions League group stage draw despite the end of the summer transfer window and Sunday’s trip to face Olympique Lyonnais in Ligue 1. Thursday sees the UCL draws made, and for the French champions, it means keeping an eye on Pots Two, Three, and Four, given that Luis Enrique’s side are sure to be in Pot One and, therefore, avoiding the likes of defending titleholders Manchester City, Napoli, Barcelona, and Bayern Munich.

Read the full article at PSG Talk Extra Time on Substack.

Despite some big names being taken out by PSG being among the top seeds, there is no shortage of potential for intriguing draws, with the three other pots boasting some attractive names and destinations across Europe. Last season saw Les Parisiens up against Juventus, Benfica, and Maccabi Haifa in Group H, with the top spot snatched by the Portuguese giants at the last second through a wild goal swing as the Italians and Israelis lagged behind.

A little less travel would probably be welcome this time, given that Sammy Ofer Stadium was not the easiest of places to go for just the second game of the group stage in what would prove to be another fruitless year on the continental scene for Paris. However, there is substantial potential for another tricky combination of teams so we run through the possibilities and offer up some scenarios.

Unavailable: Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Napoli, Benfica, Sevilla, Feyenoord, and Lens (all Pot One bar the Ligue 1 side).

Pot 2: Real Madrid, Manchester United, Inter Milan, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig, Porto and Arsenal.

Pot 3: Shakhtar Donetsk, Red Bull Salzburg, Milan, Lazio, and Red Star Belgrade.

Pot 4: Newcastle United and Union Berlin.

Unseeded (for now): Real Sociedad and Celtic.

Pot Two

Ideally, at least in my mind, PSG needs one of the tougher sides available so that the team is tested yet presented with two winnable games if Kylian Mbappé and teammates are at their best level with only a handful of teams to avoid. Real Madrid and Arsenal will possibly be the ones to steer clear of, although it seems to be a good time to come up against the Spaniards, and it would provide an insane narrative regarding the French superstar while the Gunners are much more formidable than the last time these two met back in 2016. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund, and RB Leipzig have been done before—especially the Red Devils and Bulls — which leaves beaten finalists Inter, Atletico Madrid, and Porto as potential preferences. You could argue that the Portuguese are the more favorable of the trio, which whittles the list down to Inter or Atleti—both attractive without being the toughest names out there.

Pot Three

Again, there is little sense for PSG to actively want what many will bill as a “walkover” tie like Haifa last year and some other games in years gone by where Les Parisiens have managed to rack up big wins. A degree of challenge with too much cause for concern would be ideal, and there are a few teams that could offer this to Luis Enrique’s men, with Red Bull Salzburg, Milan, and Lazio all appealing options. Shakhtar Donetsk is not a bad possibility given that the Ukrainian giants will play their ”home” Champions League games in Hamburg, Germany, but Red Star of Belgrade has been done before and is a grueling trip for players and fans alike. With that in mind, Salzburg, Milan, Lazio, or Shakhtar would be the preferences with scope for new possibilities after this midweek’s final qualifiers, given that Real Sociedad and Celtic are waiting to see who else makes it. The Italian pair would also add an element of classic UCL nights, given their renowned home venues and the Rossoneri’s continental pedigree.

Pot Four

In theory, this should be the most straightforward of the teams in the draw, but there is a major wildcard element to the current setup, with Lens unavailable due to being a fellow French side, which leaves Newcastle United or Union Berlin. The Magpies are not as fearsome on paper, given that this will be their first European foray since PSG reached the top European table, but this is Saudi-backed Newcastle, which turns it into an entirely different tie given the two ownership groups and their geographical rivalry. Berlin is perhaps a more straightforward possibility and attractive in its own right, given the nature of the fantastic story, which is pushing them to the forefront of the German game.

Dream draw: PSG with Atleti or Inter, Salzburg or Shakhtar, and Union Berlin.

Nightmare scenario: PSG with Real, Milan and Newcastle.

This one seems set to be decided by fine margins, with one club potentially enough to turn a favorable draw into an unfavorable one. It should be noted that Real are not necessarily in the best shape right now, which could aid PSG should they be paired together. However, combining the Mbappé circus with a potentially high-stakes game against Newcastle suddenly requires a winnable team from Pot Three, which appears set to be a tricky name regardless of who comes out of the hat. It promises to be an exciting group stage with reason for optimism in Paris, given recent developments but after such a busy summer, the scrutiny will be greater than ever on PSG—especially with Mbappé still in the fold.

Read the full article at PSG Talk Extra Time on Substack.

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