PSG’s Group Stage Strategy at the Halfway Point

When the UEFA Champions League draw was conducted, Paris Saint-Germain supporters groaned as the football gods placed them in a group with AC Milan, Borussia Dortmund, and Newcastle United FC.

Group F is easily one of the most difficult in recent memory, leading some pundits to predict that PSG wouldn’t advance to the knockout stage. Initially, that might have been a good bet to take to a casino, but halfway through the group stage, PSG finds themselves at the top of the mountain.

PSG kicked off matchday one with a solid 2-0 win over Dortmund at the Parc des Princes. Kylian Mbappé and Achraf Hakimi were the goalscorers that night, and the victory was especially sweet because AC Milan and Newcastle drew 0-0 in the other match at the San Siro. Plus, it’s always good to beat Dortmund as the two clubs have had a mini rivalry on social media dating back to the season where PSG reached the Champions League final.

Then came the match against Newcastle. PSG had to travel to St. James’ Park, where the first Champions League match in decades would be played. In inclement weather, PSG battled but was thoroughly defeated by a score of 4-1, and to be honest, it wasn’t even that close.

PSG’s new manager, Luis Enrique, experimented a bit at Newcastle by playing four attack-minded players and a two-man midfield. The tactics blew up in the manager’s face, and Newcastle took advantage for the full 90 minutes. A raucous crowd didn’t help PSG’s confidence either.

Unlike in previous seasons, PSG was able to rebound from that defeat on matchday three, where they hosted AC Milan. Despite not scoring a goal in the competition yet, Milan posed a serious threat with serious quality throughout their squad. None of that mattered, however, and despite a few spells, PSG dominated the match and ran out to a comfortable 3-0 victory with goals from Mbappé, Randal Kolo Muani, and Kang-In Lee. It could have been a 4-0 result, but Ousmane Dembélé’s goal was reversed after a VAR review.

PSG is very much in rebuild mode, so to be leading the group of death in the Champions League is quite an accomplishment. But the job isn’t done yet. Another victory and perhaps one more draw will get PSG to 10 points, and that should be enough to qualify for the knockout stage.

Up next, PSG will travel to AC Milan, and that will be an especially difficult trip for Gianluigi Donnarumma, who used to play for the Rossoneri. Milan Škriniar previously played for Inter Milan, and he will also know all about the atmosphere at the San Siro. PSG should lean on their experiences and guidance to secure a result.

If PSG can get a draw against Milan and then get revenge on Newcastle at the Parc des Princes on matchday 5, PSG will reach the knockout stage of the Champions League, where anything can happen.

No matter what happens in the Champions League competition this season, the future is bright. Mbappé may very well decide to sign another contract to stay in the French capital, and the emergence of Warren Zaïre-Emery has supporters salivating at the possibilities.

There’s another addition that could boost PSG’s Champions League chances next season, and that’s Xavi Simons. The Netherlands international is coming off a brilliant season at PSV Eindhoven and is currently on loan at RB Leipzig where he scored what might be the goal of the tournament at the same time PSG was dismissing AC Milan. Simons will return to PSG at the end of the season and add to a midfield that is already one of the best in Europe with Manuel Ugarte impressing since his arrival from Sporting CP.

It’s a good time to be a PSG supporter. The club is firing on all cylinders in the Champions League and could make a serious run at the title, and next season should be even better with so many young, talented players at nearly every position and a manager who knows how to win in Luis Enrique.

Tags AC Milan Borussia Dortmund Champions League Newcastle United
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