It’s fair to say PSG are still stuck in Phase Two of their grand plan to be a European powerhouse, football wise. For all their financial input, Le Parisiens only have domestic titles to show for it, the semi-finals of the continental elite competition still out of reach.
Managers have come and gone, so have players, and eliminations, last season’s catastrophic exit at the hands of Barcelona not far from the memory.
That ousting, as well as their disappointment on the domestic front last term, prompted their transfer raid last summer, and the big money purchases of Kylian Mbappe (scoffs at loan remark), and especially Neymar. The latter has had an impressive start to life in the French capital, albeit with some tumult in-between, but didn’t have the best of times in the Champions League last 16 first leg defeat to Real Madrid, and is to miss the second leg after his injury in the league game with Marseille.
So, PSG welcome Real Madrid to the Parc des Princes with a two-goal deficit, and without their talisman. A setback by the looks of it. Or is it? In the absence of Neymar, Angel Di Maria has stepped up, scoring in both games the Brazilian has missed so far, stating the obvious that Unai Emery has capable replacements in his side.
Most crucially, though, the absence is likely to force PSG to play more as a team, a collective unit, rather a mishmash of big-money names.
The absence of their poster boy might well stop the side from neither looking for the Brazilian, or prevent him from always calling for the ball, making their attack seem one-sided. And perhaps that has been the biggest flaw of the French big-spenders, not functioning as a team. From the era of Zlatan Ibrahimovic till this time, there hasn’t really been evidence of PSG’s collective ability, relying less on individuals, but rather the line-up acting act as an organism.
There’s only so much an individual, or a trio or quartet can do, lessons PSG have been taught the hard way, but don’t seem to have learned. It remains to be seen, what they’ll come up with against Real. Perform as a team, and optimism comes no matter the outcome on Tuesday. Succeed as a team, and bullishness comes, in the fact that PSG start to feel they can go far without their star man.