PSG are in their first ever Champions League final and have perhaps now finally shaken off the idea that they’re perennial chokers. Look out, everyone…
So PSG have finally grown up.
At this stage it might not even be the end of the world if they lose the Champions League final, because this season they have now proved that they’re not perennial bottle-jobs, having come through tough tests against Borussia Dortmund and Atalanta, and then completely dominating what could have been an extremely tricky encounter with RB Leipzig.
“Coming into the semi-final, PSG were stronger than Leipzig in almost every area, except pressing high up the pitch,” said Michael Cox on the latest edition of The Totally Football Show. “That was the area I thought that if Leipzig were going to cause problems it would be because of that.
“But PSG did press and a lot of their chances came from winning the ball high up. If PSG are adding workrate and team play without the ball to their repertoire, they’re a seriously, seriously good side. That would be the one question I’d have going into the game against Bayern – assuming they get to the final – because obviously we saw Bayern do that against Barcelona.”
Goalscoring has never really been a problem, and they kept up a remarkable run in this game, as Duncan Alexander pointed out:
“This was the 34th Champions League game in a row they’ve scored, which equals the record held by Real Madrid. The last time they didn’t was against Manchester City in 2016 who had Joe Hart in goal, and a central defence of Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi.”
Perhaps one of the crucial differences to what was a dogged but not particularly inspired performance against Atalanta was the return of Angel Di Maria, sometimes derided for his season at Manchester United, but who has been key for PSG.
“He’s been a really good player [for a long time] – he moved to Real Madrid ten years ago and even before that he did pretty well in a really good Benfica side,” said Michael Cox.
“I think he often gets miscast as a pure winger, whereas in reality he plays a bit deeper, he plays a bit narrower. He’s been a really busy, combative player in a scrappy way throughout his career, while also having the ability to play wonderful balls like he did for the first goal for Marquinhos.
“Leandro Paredes was excellent too. I thought the midfield three Thomas Tuchel played against Atalanta was so slow – it was basically three defensive midfielders, with Marquinhos, Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera. Really flat with nobody really willing to play a risky pass, which is what Paredes did really well.”
And then there was Neymar, who wasted some chances but was again their creative key, as Duncan Alexander said:
“Neymar’s had a very classic Neymar Champions League, in that his finishing has been woeful but his creativity has been incredible. One of Neymar or Coutinho is going to win the Champions League, which again will not be a good look for Barcelona.”
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