3 bold predictions for PSG in UEFA Champions League group stages
Paris Saint Germain is entering the new season as one of the best squads ever assembled in the history of football. An already legendary attack of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar Jr. and Mauro Icardi was further strengthened by adding one of the greatest players in the world, Lionel Messi. A somewhat shaky defense was strengthened by former Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and full-back Achraf Hakimi. In the midfield, Georginio Wijnaldum was snapped up from Liverpool, while defensive midfielder Danilo Pereira was brought in from Porto. With this squad, PSG is definitely aiming for the top. Here are three bold predictions for the team in the UEFA Champions League group stage:
Manchester City will finish above PSG in UEFA Champions League group stage
Joining the French team in the group A is Manchester City, RB Leipzig and Club Brugge. While a UEFA Champions League group containing these teams, and with the strength of the French squad, would make it easy to say that PSG will win it, with City going second, Leipzig going third and Brugge failing to fourth, that does not make it necessarily true.
One thing that is severely underestimated is the gel of the squad. Manchester City went through very minor changes, losing only Sergio Aguero and adding only Jack Grealish in the summer. That means that the squad is already gelled together well, and manager Pep Guardiola can simply continue using the same tactics employed by the team in the past few years, where the roster was the same. On the other hand, Mauricio Pochettino will need time to put everything in the right place.
Additionally, Messi, who is by far the biggest addition to the PSG squad, only made one appearance, as a substitute in their league game against Reims, and he will miss the upcoming game versus Clermont. Sergio Ramos is still recovering from the injuries he carried from Madrid, and Neymar had injury issues as well. By the time the knock-outs begin, this team should work as a well-oiled machine, but until then, it would not be a surprise for City to overtake them in the group.
Kylian Mbappe will outshine both Messi and Neymar on PSG
It is absolutely no surprise that Mbappe was chased to this degree by Real Madrid in the summer. Despite his contract running out next July, the Spanish team offered over $200 million to get him this summer. The response from PSG was to disregard this, and risk losing the Frenchman for free. It is understandable why chairman Nasser Al-Khaleifi decided against it, since money is really not an issue for the Parisians, and he has the unique opportunity to assemble the best team ever in football.
Mbappe did, reportedly, want to move to the Spanish capital, but also outlined that he will see out his contract with PSG and remain professional. For him, of course, remaining professional means scoring tons of goals for the French team, as he finished with a whopping 42 goals in all competitions last year. This is truly a generational talent, and he has also been lucky to avoid almost all major injuries during his career, from the Monaco days until now.
Due to these reasons, it is in the realm of possibility that the world will be raving about Mbappe for PSG after this Champions League group stage. While Messi and Neymar are obviously more experienced, it is their age and injury-proneness, respectfully, that will determine who is going to lead this PSG squad forward.
Messi is not getting any younger, unfortunately for PSG fans, and he will definitely see a drop-off, especially in a team that is not tailored exactly to his playstyle, like Barcelona was. Neymar, on the other hand, will definitely be injured for a part of the season, as is tradition now. With former Inter striker Mauro Icardi being very unreliable since coming to Paris, Mbappe will be the undisputed attacking leader, and all experiences point to the fact that the Turtle, as he is colloquially known, will accept and thrive in this position.
Marco Veratti will establish himself as the best midfielder in the world (and the UEFA Champions League)
It is hard to say how they do it, but Italians have a knack for having amazing midfielders. Continuing the path of Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, the generation led by Veratti and Jorginho, and joined by the likes of Sensi, Locatelli and Barella, are proving that there is something in the Italian soil that makes them truly great. While Jorginho got all the praise after the EURO’s, some analysts were also left baffled by Veratti’s performances.
The PSG midfielder is now on the level of easily waltzing into any midfield in the world, similar to the level of Xavi in Barcelona, or Toni Kroos in Real Madrid. His work-rate is something young players aspiring to be world-class footballers need to look at. Although small in stature, Veratti will surprise many larger opponents and easily win a duel with them, while also having impeccable technical ability. His dribbling runs could be a key to break down two-line defensive blocks, often employed by opposition coaches when there is a high quality discrepancy.
In addition to all of that, Veratti can be the engine of PSG and get all of his offensive talent involved, which is an underrated skill in midfielders that does not get talked about enough. The Italian will not send passes like Pirlo, that will completely break down defenses, but will use smart runs to distract defenses and use short passing to get into better positions, where he can distribute the ball. Unfortunately, due to the lack of real flashiness in his play, Veratti is often overlooked when speaking about the best of the best. However, this group would be great proving grounds for his case for best midfielder in the world.
Overall, PSG will definitely have a deep run in the knock-out stage of the Champions League. There are simply no teams that can spot the French team before at least the semi-finals, barring any miracles. One of the teams that would be possibly able to stop them is in the group with them, Manchester City, while the other contenders will be lurking from other groups.
However, all pointers are showing that this year’s edition of the UEFA Champions League is PSG’s to lose.