Paris Saint-Germain hope for Lionel Messi to step up
Following their repeated failures to win Europe’s most coveted trophy, Paris Saint-Germain perfectly know that adding up individual talents is not enough to make a team successful on the biggest stage.
Since their wealthy Qatari owners took control of the French side more than 10 years ago, PSG have grown into a global brand with strong commercial revenues.
Year after year their roster has become more and more formidable, with the addition of superstars like David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. And year after year the title they crave for so much, the Champions League, has remained unreachable despite coming close in 2020 with a runners-up finish.
Taking example from the “Galacticos” policy in place during Florentino Perez’s presidency at Real Madrid, PSG have however not given up on their strategy. Having secured the services of a four-time Champions League and seven-time Ballon d’Or winner this season in Lionel Messi, the club hopes it will be a game-changer.
And the former Barcelona great is now under pressure to deliver against Real Madrid in a clash between a club that likes to brand itself the Kings of Europe and soccer’s “nouveaux riches.” PSG host the 13-time winners in the first leg of a round-of-16 match on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes.
Messi has adapted slowly to his new club since he signed a two-year deal with PSG last summer, scoring just seven goals in 20 appearances.
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino keeps repeating the 34-year-old Argentine great needs time to find the right balance in his new surroundings, but all eyes will be on Messi against Real Madrid, a club he tortured during his long spell in Spain with Barcelona, scoring 26 goals and delivering 14 assists in 45 games.
With Neymar just back from injury and unlikely to start, PSG will also be counting on Mbappe to make an impact. The France forward, who has long been courted by Real Madrid, has been in superb form recently and scored an injury-time winner on Friday in the French league.
A mouth-watering duel between Mbappe and France teammate Karim Benzema seems unlikely to unfold. Benzema has been included in the Madrid squad but is doubtful as he works his way back from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since last month.
Real Madrid haven’t reached the final since completing a straight hat-trick of European Cups in 2018.
A welcome draw — on paper, at least — and a fully fit and in-form squad, Manchester City are in great shape at the start of the knockout stage as the English club goes in search of that elusive Champions League title.
City’s only loss in all competitions since October 30 — a run of 20 games — was 2-1 at Leipzig in the final match in the Champions League group stage, which meant little since Pep Guardiola’s team was already assured of advancing.
Indeed, more significant than the loss was the red card shown to Kyle Walker that will deprive Guardiola of his first-choice right back for both legs against Sporting and the first leg of the quarter finals should City progress.
Joao Cancelo, rested like Kevin De Bruyne and Aymeric Laporte in the Premier League at the weekend, will fill in at right back.
City, the beaten finalists last season, are favourites against Portuguese opponents who are making only their second appearance in the knockout stage.
Reward for fans
Uefa will offer 30,000 tickets to fans of teams taking part in this season’s European finals as a way to thank them for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic, president Aleksander Ceferin said on Monday.