After losing their first match of the season against Nice, PSG and their coach Luis Enrique will have to rectify the situation on Tuesday as they begin a new Champions League campaign against the Germans Borussia Dortmund.
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Paris Saint-Germain already under pressure. Defeated at home on Friday by Nice, the capital’s players and their new coach Luis Enrique are expected to turn the corner when launching a delicate group phase (in group F) of the Champions League against Dortmund, Tuesday September 19 at the Parc of Princes.
Like Friday evening when explaining why PSG, which he is in the process of shaping, conceded a strange defeat against OGC Nice (2-3), Luis Enrique displayed his serenity on Monday at a press conference.
“We didn’t start the season extremely well, but every time I arrive (at a team), it’s always like that, there’s a lot of information, ideas, concepts that the players must assimilate,” he assured.
“I see it as a process that requires time”, even if “it’s hard to ask for time, because I know how things work”, explained the Spanish technician.
But he cannot ignore that a crisis quickly arrived in Paris, where victory is still awaited. “If the results are bad, I will be fired,” said Luis Enrique calmly.
The confrontation against Nice was only a warm-up round before two summits: the start of the C1 group stage against Borussia on Tuesday, and the classic against Marseille on Sunday, still at the Parc.
If it is no longer trumpeted by the leaders, the real objective remains Europe for PSG, which wins almost everything on French soil (9 French championship titles since the arrival of the Qatari fund QSI in 2011 , notably).
This is evidenced by the recruitment of Luis Enrique, already winner of the Champions League – with Barcelona in 2015 –, unlike all his predecessors when they arrived on the Parisian bench except Carlo Ancelotti (December 2011-June 2013).
However, PSG is not entitled to the usual break-in period in the group stage, because it has inherited a difficult draw with, in addition to Dortmund, the powerful AC Milan and the nouveau riche Newcastle.
Each match risks counting to clinch first place in this group F, which would promise an easier draw in the round of 16. Elimination from the pools, unthinkable in previous years, is not completely so this year.
Mbappé in good shape, Dembélé silent
A victory is all the more recommended on Tuesday evening as Dortmund seems the most likely of the three opponents at the start of the season. If Borussia has not yet lost in the Bundesliga and is notably coming off a victory on Saturday in Freiburg (2-4), the German vice-champions seem much less inspired than last season. They have collected only 8 points in four matches (7e) against teams promised in the middle and at the bottom of the table.
PSG has the weapons to seriously hurt a rather slow central defense held by Mats Hummels and Nico Schlotterbeck. The supersonic Kylian Mbappé has already scored goals in Ligue 1 this season (7 in 4 matches). His right wing sidekick Ousmane Dembélé also has the speed to make his former team dizzy.
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Problem is, the defector from FC Barcelona has so far remained silent, even missing several clear chances against Nice. Furthermore, number 9 Gonçalo Ramos, arrived from Benfica Lisbon, struggles to touch balls. And Asensio, author of two goals in his last two matches, is injured.
French international Randal Kolo Muani showed promise in his first match since arriving from Frankfurt, delivering an assist to the team’s star on Friday evening.
Another concern for the Spanish coach: the defense, which will not be able to afford three goals like Friday. The Danilo-Skriniar pair was overtaken in depth. But against Dortmund, Luis Enrique should be able to count on his captain Marquinhos, left to rest.
The environment should also show a different face with the return as starter of Manuel Ugarte, already essential.
Hailed for his dynamic and offensive game project, Luis Enrique, who remains in failure as coach of Spain (elimination in the round of 16 at the 2022 World Cup), knows that his PSG will be judged, very quickly, by results.