To say the last couple of years have been disappointing for Paris Saint-Germain would be an understatement. Their continental woes have continued while their stranglehold on Ligue 1 has lessened somewhat. Not even a dream strike force of Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, and Neymar could progress the club to the levels it strives to reach.
While the latter two of that trio have since departed the club, claiming that they were mistreated there in the process, the Parisians have started the 2023/24 campaign worse than ever before. After five games of the new season, the club from the French capital are down in fifth place in the league standings. To make matters worse, a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Nice in game week five plunged the club to a new low.
Not even the goalscoring exploits of their French striking sensation Mbappé has been able to provide any joy to the Parc des Princes faithful. The 27-year-old has already netted seven goals so far this term, however, the uncertainty around his future has taken center stage. His contract will expire at the end of the season, and he will leave PSG on a free transfer should a new deal not be agreed over the course of the campaign, and there are no end of potential suitors vying for his signature.
Champions League Brings Welcome Respite
The UEFA Champions League has been the competition that owner Nasser Al-Khalifi has desired more than ever since his takeover of the French club over a decade ago. However, it is also the tournament that has brought him the most heartache. The Parisians have exited the competition in the round of 16 in each of the last two seasons despite being considered one of the favorites for glory on each occasion.
During the opening weeks of the campaign, you’ll have noticed that PSG is no longer considered one of the favorites for success due to their considerable lack of star power. Prior to the opening round of fixtures, PSG were 16/1 outsiders, with Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Arsenal, and Barcelona all being given a better shot at glory by the bookies. If you’ve been following the best soccer odds, you’ll likely have seen PSG’s decline in the odds.
However, that will all change now following their resounding 2-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund on home turf. Second-half goals from Mbappé and fullback Achraf Hakimi were good enough to secure the win, and in truth, it could – and should – have been more. But with Group F rivals AC were only and Newcastle United only able to muster up a goalless draw in the group’s other fixture, Luis Enrique’s side has already taken an early lead.
With the Parisians seemingly on track to meet their expectations in the Champions League, attention will now turn to domestic matters. Can they get their season back on track?
Difficult Fixtures on the Horizon
When it comes to domestic games, Paris Saint-Germain is expected to win them all, and nothing less than three points will suffice. But despite that, they have dropped points in three of their five games played so far this term. They started the campaign with back-to-back draws at home to Lorient and away at Toulouse, and they were put to the sword by Nice in their most recent fixture.
Sandwiched between those were impressive wins, however. They handily defeated last season’s runners-up Lens by three goals to one at the Parc Des Princes on matchday three. They then managed to thump rivals Lyon by four goals to one on enemy territory, with superstar Mbappé helping himself to a first-half brace.
But further tough tests are on the horizon. First up is Marseille, who have strengthened considerably in the summer in the hopes of catching and ultimately usurping PSG as the dominant force in French football. They have brought in English Championship sensations Iliman Ndiaye and Ismaïla Sarr, as well as raiding Atletico Madrid to secure deals for both Renan Lodi and Geoffrey Kondogbia. Add to that the addition of Argentine striker Joaquín Correa on loan from Inter Milan, and it’s clear that Les Phocéens are gunning for the Parisians.
In October, they will also have to travel to face Rennes, who have developed into one of France’s finest clubs in recent years. They have finished at least fourth in three of the last four seasons and have nurtured a talented young squad built around the likes of Amine Gouiri and Martin Terrier.
While PSG’s European campaign may well have gotten off to the perfect start, there can be no denying the task that awaits them in the Champions League this season. Luis Enrique’s men have been drawn into the group of death in this year’s tournament alongside the recently vanquished Dortmund, as well as last season’s semifinalists AC Milan and English powerhouses Newcastle United.
While the Parisians are the favorites to win the group, they must be at their very best. The Rossoneri and the Magpies are no slouches while heading to Dortmund’s intimidating Signal Iduna Park is daunting. Such difficult midweek fixtures may well hamper the club’s domestic interests. And with their squad considerably weaker than it was last season, it will be interesting to see how they handle their European distractions.