Paris Saint-Germain are UEFA Champions League semi-finalists for the second consecutive season and the French giants come up against Manchester City this week and next for a potential berth in another final after last year's narrow loss to Bayern Munich. The defending titleholders have already been eliminated by PSG in the quarterfinals on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate draw and fireworks are expected when Les Parisiens come up against Premier League leaders City. You can watch the match live on Paramount+
Pep Guardiola's men are arguably the slight favorites based on their impressive domestic form this campaign but Mauricio Pochettino's side have showed more than enough to suggest that they could derail the Citizens' quest for continental glory. This is a case for PSG's chances of ultimate Champions League success.
1. Neymar and Mbappe
Starting with the obvious, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are bona fide world-class talents, and few teams can live with them when they turn it on the way that they did against Bayern in the quarterfinals.
Obviously, PSG lost that clash on the night and still advanced on aggregate, but it was a particularly lucky evening for the Germans as the Brazilian and French superstars did everything but put the ball in the back of Manuel Neuer's net.
If Neymar and Mbappe were to replicate a similar level of performance against City, then the chances are that they would score at least once to put the hosts in a good position ahead of leg two at Etihad Stadium next week.
Mbappe continues to amaze and is hitting a purple patch of form at just the right time while Neymar continues to reserve his best displays for the Champions League, and it feels like the stage is set for both to deliver a statement result for PSG against City to reach the final.
2. Conquering a difficult schedule
Assuming that PSG do eliminate City, there is then the question of ousting Real Madrid or Chelsea in the Istanbul final with both familiar faces to the Ligue 1 heavyweights after numerous matchups over the years.
However, should they meet either side in the showpiece event, they would arguably be considered favorites based on their route to the final as it will have been harder than either the Spanish or English capital outfits' own paths.
Barca, Bayern and City is pretty much the toughest draw you can possibly wish to land at this level and after years of accusations of beating the easier sides and then struggling against the bigger ones, PSG will have served up a bulletproof triumph. And it's not only Champions League where PSG are in the midst of a brutal run of matches.
The fierce nature of the French title race is another positive in PSG's corner with the tightest Ligue 1 title bout in years looking like it is going down to the wire with Lille OSC and AS Monaco still alive alongside the champions at present.
With four games to go in Le Championnat, that race is likely to span the two legs against City and could be enough to push them into the final by keeping them sharp and combative with some recent displays of character like the late home win over AS Saint-Etienne.
Should PSG reach the final and either reunite with former coach Thomas Tuchel or cross swords with Florentino Perez's Super League ringleaders again, they will be able to call upon their experiences from just 12 months earlier to guide them.
Like at Parc des Princes recently, Bayern won 1-0 in Lisbon and it was Parisien youth academy graduate Kingsley Coman who scored the only goal of the game in a particularly painful defeat after a heroic late show against Atalanta BC and a convincing win over RB Leipzig.
The difference in PSG's showings against Bayern in the space of 12 months was noticeable and if the team can show similarly that they have learned from the past in any potential Istanbul final, then they may well win the whole thing.
3. Pochettino leading a fit squad into the future
Also going in their favor, perhaps less so give that every coach at this stage has reached at least one Champions League final, is the fact that Pochettino has been to the same stage PSG found themselves in last year.
The Argentine led his unfancied Tottenham Hotspur side all the way to the final in 2019 on to fall to Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool and guess who they beat in the quarterfinals en route to the Madrid final? You guessed it -- City.
Pochettino might still be getting to grips with balancing Ligue 1, Coupe de France and UCL commitments, but he is already getting some excellent performances out of his players in Europe and especially the likes of Mbappe.
And those players are finally rounding into form for their manager. Another plus for PSG is the fact that they will finally be able to line up a pretty much full-strength side for at least the first leg against City with Marquinhos and Mbappe expected to be fit enough to start after recent doubts.
Neymar was out for both legs against Barca while Marco Verratti has struggled to be fit for some of the biggest matches and was absent home and away against Bayern which forced Pochettino to improvise over 180 minutes. Pochettino is getting the most out of the players he has, and now he finally has close to all of PSG's players available.
PSG director Leonardo to Canal Plus 🔴🔵— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) April 24, 2021
- “Mbappé contract? We are generally optimistic. He still has a year on his contract. The time for the decision will come”.
- “Neymar contract? Everyone knows our intention. No rush. The relationship is great, we want to make it happen”.
Factor in the fact that PSG are playing to convince the likes of Mbappe that the future is in Paris and not with the likes of possible final opponents and Super League rebels Real, there is no shortage of motivation heading into both legs against City with a potential historic treble still possible.