Having had a virtual lock on the French title for the past few years, Paris Saint-Germain has announced their arrival on the European stage this season by dominating English champions Chelsea over two legs. Next up for Les Parisiens, who won the Ligue 1 title in record time this season, is a two-legged quarter-final clash with another English heavyweight: Manchester City.
Both sides are looking to make it through to the semis for the first time. And, while there is little to separate the teams on paper, it’s PSG who has looked better up to this point. As the home side, PSG is also the favorite for Wednesday’s clash at the Parc des Princes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in resplendent form this season and was particularly influential in PSG’s elimination of Chelsea. The Swede may have a bit of extra motivation in facing top-level English opposition, having issued a come-and-get-me plea to Premier League sides last month. City, for their part, will be without influential center back and captain, Vincent Kompany, adding another dimension to the challenge of stopping Ibrahimovic.
The similarities between the two teams are worth mentioning: Both are backed by Gulf riches; both are led by superstar strikers – PSG by Ibrahimovic, and City by Sergio Aguero; both are also relatively new to the elite level of European super-clubs and looking for the credibility that a semi-final appearance would bring. However, only one will progress beyond this stage.
Wednesday in Paris, PSG will have the opportunity to gain a significant edge in that regard ahead of the return leg in Manchester. Having already claimed the title, PSG also have something of a wind at their back. City, meanwhile, has struggled domestically and do not look to be quite the same team they were prior to Pep Guardiola having been announced as their next manager. For PSG manager Laurent Blanc, the challenge will be to keep his team from succumbing to the kind of lackadaisical that’s seen Bayern Munich blown out of the Champions League in recent seasons when they have wrapped up their domestic title two months before the end of the season.
If Laurent can keep his team motivated, PSG has an excellent chance of getting past Man City. That would mean a trip to the semifinals and an opportunity to stake their claim as one of Europe’s truly elite teams and maybe even the possibility of a first European championship.