Aafter so many seasons of disappointment in the Champions League, Paris Saint Germain could now be the best team in Europe.
You wouldn’t have come close to saying this after their various humiliating outings in recent seasons, but since the Champions League campaign started last season. PSG have lost just four out of 20 games.
When you consider that they have lost eight times in Ligue 1 this season, where they are generally invincible, you have to wonder how and why their form has changed.
Perhaps this is due to the growth in confidence that last year’s race to the final brought.
Former boss Thomas tuchel worked hard to give his men the belief that they could beat the continent’s greatest teams and, despite Mauricio Pochettino taking over by canoe in January, this feeling of belonging has not disappeared.
Even if PSG have beaten Barcelona, Manchester United and real Madrid at different times in their last two European campaigns, scoring three away for the defending champions Bayern Munich is surely the highlight.
Smart on the continent
In addition to increased belief, PSG also appear to be more tactically savvy on the bigger stage.
At the start of Wednesday’s first leg, they continuously hit Bayern on the counterattack, using the complex skill of Julian Draxler and Angel di Maria to beat the press and then get Neymar and Kylian mbappe running on a relatively slow back line.
When Bayern came back roaring, Pochettinomen – despite the loss of the key man Marquinhos and dispatch a few goals – they kept attacking, which they may have been guilty of not having done in recent years.
A different state of mind
One final reason for their improved European screens comes down to the mentality.
The tastes of Neymar, From Maria and Keylor Navas seem to have kept their best form for the big European nights and it seems the lack of crowds helped them focus on the work in hand rather than getting lost in the excitement of the big away games such as the sadly famous “ remountada ” of 2017 in Barcelona.
The eternal question was always whether PSG could translate their domination in Ligue 1 in Europe.
But now – with Small leading the elite of France after beating PSG last weekend – may Pochettino and does his coterie of stars do the opposite and bring their Champions League form back to national affairs?
Their trip to Strasbourg Saturday afternoon will have the answer.