Can Messi, Neymar and Mbappe finally clinch Champions League success for PSG?

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PSG have been regulars of the Champions League for the past decade. But the French side have never lifted the famous trophy, coming closest in the 2019/20 campaign in a 1-0 final loss to Bayern Munich.

It has, however, been a largely miserable time in Europe’s elite competition for the Ligue 1 outfit. The current run began in 2012/13, when PSG went on to reach the quarter-finals of the competition four seasons in a row.

But a decline in standards resulted in three consecutive Round of 16 finishes, before that agonisingly close encounter against German giants Bayern. An impressive semi-final run followed after that, but last season saw the club once again fail to make it past the Round of 16.

They have, of course, been in the competition before this decade-long run, but it is a similar tale, with the semi-finals the best the French side could do in their four other Champions League appearances.

But, despite all of the failings, there may just be a new sense of optimism around Parc des Princes. Unsurprisingly, much of the excitement is centred around the stunning attacking trio of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi.

The three have linked up expertly in the early stages of the new season, but they form part of a collective effort at PSG, one that is determined to put previous failures in Europe behind them.

Summer of change at PSG

To say a lot happened at PSG this summer would be an understatement. One of the major stories was, of course, the incredible contract that was handed to star player Kylian Mbappe. As reported by the Guardian, PSG are paying the forward €250m over three years, as well as allowing him a say in how the club is run.

Another major story was the turnaround in the dugout, with Christophe Galtier replacing Mauricio Pochettino in the managerial hot seat.

And in the upper echelons, Luis Campos arrived as the club’s new football advisor. His recruitment has led to plenty of new arrivals, including exciting young Portuguese midfielder Vitinha.

Also arriving in the French capital were full-backs Nuno Mendes and Nordi Mukiele from Sporting Lisbon and RB Leipzig respectively, along with midfielders Fabian Ruiz, Carlos Soler and Renato Sanches.

And perhaps in a similar vein to the career projection of Mbappe, young forward Hugo Ekitike has arrived on an initial loan from Stade Reims.

The new approach has focused on bringing in a handful of different players, rather than one major star signing. That said, the outcome is largely the same; over €100m spent on incomings.

PSG have attempted to balance the books – and indeed their squad size – with outgoings, led by several high-profile loans. Mauro Icardi has made a temporary switch to Galatasaray, with Georginio Wijnaldum moving to Roma.

Fellow midfielders Leandro Paredes and Ander Herrera have made similar moves to Juventus and Athletic Bilbao respectively, while Julian Draxler is currently on loan at Benfica.

Veteran winger Angel Di Maria has left for Juventus on a free, with West Ham snapping up duo Thilo Kehrer and Alphonse Areola. Idrissa Gueye has returned to Everton, with youngsters Arnaud Kalimuendo and Thierno Baldé moving to Stade Rennais and Troyes respectively.

Star trio all playing their part

It was a disappointing European campaign last time out, in which the front three of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe couldn’t link up as many expected them to.

PSG are, however, more than their phenomenal front three, with the likes of Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos, Marquinhos, Marco Verratti and Achraf Hakimi just a handful of names in their hugely talented squad.

But all eyes are unsurprisingly focused on that special front trio, and they certainly haven’t let down their new boss or their fans so far this season. Whether it be Mbappe and his new contract, Messi finally feeling at home, or Neymar staying injury free, there is some extraordinary football being played by the attacking three.

Largely playing in a slightly unfamiliar attacking midfield role, Messi has been the creator, adopting a position behind both Neymar and Mbappe. The Argentine has eight assists in his 11 matches this season. That said, he’s also found the net on six occasions, and is finally showing PSG exactly what he is capable of. 

Messi’s recent Champions League strike saw him score for the 18th successive season in the competition, a new record. Moreover, only five Champions League opponents out of 44 have stopped him from scoring.

Brazilian star Neymar has also been heavily involved in both the scoring and creating side of things. He has 11 goals and eight assists in his first 11 matches of the new season. The forward has 15 goals and assists in Ligue 1 alone, the most in Europe’s top seven leagues.

Mbappe meanwhile has truly taken on the persona that was granted to him in his new deal, with the France international keeping very quiet on the creative front, and instead scoring plenty of goals. He has found the net 10 times in nine games so far this season.

The trio are capable of devastating defences, but as always they will be judged when it comes to the business end of the competition.

Can PSG win the Champions League this season?

PSG have made a strong start to this season’s Champions League, and are unbeaten after their first two games. The first saw them defeat Italian giants Juventus 2-1 in the French capital, with an Mbappe brace securing all three points.

This was followed by a 3-1 victory at Maccabi Haifa, with that dreaded front three of Mbappe, Messi and Neymar all on the scoresheet, after Tjaronn Chery had put the hosts into a shock lead.

In what is a tricky group, PSG may just have their toughest test yet up next. They travel to high-flying Benfica, who also boast a 100% win rate from their two group matches. The Portuguese side defeated Maccabi Haifa 2-0 on matchday one, before securing a 2-1 victory at Juventus on matchday two.

But it is their domestic form that will perhaps send more fear into PSG, with Benfica winning all seven of their league matches so far. They’ve scored 19 goals in that time, and have conceded just three. PSG incidentally are also undefeated domestically, with seven wins and a draw to open their Ligue 1 title defence.

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