At Paris Saint-Germain, even the victory becomes a cause for regret. Indeed, if PSG one day wants to be on the throne of European football, perfection will be paramount. The slightest shortfall is paid in cash. This Wednesday 2 November proved it again. Winner of Juventus in Turin (1-2), the club from the capital has successfully completed a group stage of the Champions League: four wins and two draws. Better still, it is the only club of the five major leagues of the Old Continent still unbeaten since the beginning of the season, twenty games without suffering the slightest defeat in all competitions.
Still, the Ile-de-France staff should have some headaches as they await the draw for the round of 16 in C1 on Monday 7 November. Fault of an unlikely scenario that saw the Parisians finish in second place in their group, captured on the wire by Benfica Lisbon, clear winner of Maccabi Haifa (1-6). A position that exposes Christophe Galtier’s men to a European cador as soon as the tournament resumes in February.
Informed by his midfielder Marco Verratti of the sixth Lisbon goal that brought the blow, the Parisian coach closed the match with a tense air. “This is the history of the Champions League: they say it’s an irrational competition, tried to put the interested person in perspective at the Canal + microphone after the final whistle. To go as far as possible, you have to beat the big teams. We will see what happens in the draw. “ However, with potential opponents such as Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich or even Naples, the task promises to be difficult.
Gala evenings and disillusioned tomorrow
With perfect equality of points, goals scored and conceded, with the same score in the direct matches (1-1), the Lisboa won the photo finish in favor of the number of goals scored against the outsiders. A unique case in the modern history of the Champions League, which nevertheless confirms a constant: PSG is a team apart, where the unthinkable becomes possible. Between galas and disillusioned tomorrows, he has never done half measures since his return to the queen of European competitions in 2012.
The general public remembers the “lifted up” – mandate entered Larousse in 2021 – Barcelona in the round of 16 in 2017. Winners 4-0 in the first leg, the Parisians crossed the door of C1 at the cost of a 6-1 defeat in the second leg. Ironically, it was the same score that propelled PSG to second place in Group H on Wednesday. A victim of PSG this time of a “recovered by proxy”.
If the group stage denouement seems cruel, some details also suggest that Paris has its share in its lack of success. As in previous seasons, the club from the capital has shown its ability to alternate between excellent and disappointing.
Air holes that are expensive
During his three home games, Christophe Galtier’s men have sometimes been close to perfection, in the wake of a Messi-Neymar-Mbappé attacking trio that delighted the Parc des Princes. But as for a decade, Paris struggles to kill the injured beast and leaves it alive. So it was in the first leg against Juventus Turin, beaten only 2-1, despite a clear superiority and many opportunities collected. Throughout the six group matches, PSG showed certain limits on game fragments when their opponent pressed the intensity slider.
As in the double confrontation with Benfica, against which Paris has never managed to win, alternating high sequences – such as Lionel Messi’s goal in Lisbon, which concludes a superb collective movement – and expensive air pockets on the way. Among these, the two goals conceded at home against Haifa (7-2) for reckless mistakes, or the more than avoidable penalty granted to Lisbon at the Parc des Princes. A match ended, in fact, in balance and that today weighs a lot in the budget of the Parisians.
Similar moments of hesitation cost the capital club their qualification to the quarter-finals of the Champions League against Real Madrid last season, with PSG conceding three goals within a quarter of an hour. Since 2012, Paris has finished second in their group four times. And he managed to pass the eighth twice. “We will watch the draw and play to win”promises Kylian Mbappé. A sentence that confirms that the striker and decisive passer-by of the evening – now announced leaving for the winter market – will be present in February 2023 for a knockout match that will undoubtedly affect the future of the star in the capital.