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Paris Saint-Germain’s Road to the Champions League Final

Posted by on August 22, 2020 0

Paris Saint-Germain may have been the butt of many jokes over the years, but they now stand on the brink of history.

A team that has become synonymous with bottling, stage fright and humiliating humblings, the French champions were seemingly cursed when it came to the knockout stages of the Champions League. The remarkable 6-1 defeat to Barcelona in 2017 was a blow which shook the club to its core, and only two years later, they suffered similar embarrassment against Manchester United at the Parc des Princes.

But this PSG side is different. Thomas Tuchel’s men have shown some great character and desire, along with the obvious skill and talent, to book their place in the big European cup final. This group of players stand on the cusp of immortality, and victory over Bayern on Sunday evening would see them go down in Paris folklore, as the first winners of the Champions League for Les Parisiens.

Kylian Mbappé, Neymar, Thiago Silva and co. are 90 minutes away from becoming legends for all of eternity. How exactly did we get to this point, though? 90min has a look back at PSG’s road to the final.

The draw for the group stages was kind to the French champions. Well, it’s never going to be plain sailing when you’re matched up against Spanish giants Real Madrid, but in Galatasaray and Club Brugge, there was certainly some cause for optimism.

PSG’s opening fixture was a baptism of fire – but it turned out to be a statement of intent. Madrid travelled to France, and were welcomed by a team determined to put last season’s disappointment behind them. Los Merengues didn’t manage a shot on target at the Parc des Princes, and they were duly battered 3-0, with Angel Di Maria coming back to haunt his former employers with a brace.

That win was followed up by a tough trip to Turkey, to face Galatasaray in the intimidating Türk Telekom Stadium. But Les Parisiens stood up to be counted once again, edging through win a 1-0 victory, thanks to Argentine forward MauIcardi.

PSG supporters were also handed a lovely trip to Belgium, and their stars enjoyed an equally pleasant evening, putting five past Club Brugge, with no response from the hosts. A 1-0 win over Brugge in the return fixture maintained their 100% winning start, and the French side had yet to be penetrated. Four wins, four clean sheets, and a trip to the Bernabeu to come.

The winning streak may have come to an end in this 2-2 draw in Spain, but PSG took more encouragement from this result than any of their previous victories.

Karim Benzema seemingly put the game beyond his opponents in the 79th minute, doubling Madrid’s lead, but the French giants rocked the Bernabeu with two quick-fire goals in the final minutes to pull level.

It was a display of heart, commitment and courage. This side was no longer prepared to be on the losing end of these comebacks. The group stages drew to a close back in Paris, where the hosts smashed another five goals past Galatasaray to end up top of the group, with 16 points from a possible 18, scoring 17 goals and conceding only two.

Not bad at all. Onto the knockout rounds!

This is where the fun starts. Although after 90 minutes, it looked as if the fun was about to end for Tuchel and his stars. PSG earned themselves a trip to Germany in the Champions League round of 16, where they would face the exhilarating – if somewhat leaky – Borussia Dortmund.

Der BVB came out on top at the Westfalenstadionwith Erling Haaland cancelling out Neymar’s equaliser to earn himself a brace in a 2-1 win – and a place on PSG’s dartboard with his iconic celebration. Whether a young boy meditating really lit such a fire under this group of superstars is up for debate, but they definitely came out determined to assert their authority in the second leg.

Tuchel’s men put in a professional performance in an empty Parc des Princes, restricting the usually-expansive Dortmund, and running out 2-0 winners, completing a 3-2 success on aggregate. The impressive comeback was slightly tainted by the players all mocking Haaland in the dressing room after the match, as well as Neymar performing the Norwegian’s celebration after scoring.

All a bit weird really. But they’re through!

Only one round apart, but the world was now a very different place. The Champions League became a straight shoot-out, second legs were old news and we were all in Portugal for this mouth-watering occasion. Seen by many as the easiest draw of the lot, Atalanta were PSG’s adversary for this Champions League quarter-final. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, 26 minutes in, and PSG were behind. Mario Pasalic had curled a wonderful strike into the top corner, and the pressure was well and truly on Tuchel to find a way to end this wonderful fairytale. Fortunately, no one quite does ‘unpopular party poopers’ better than PSG.

Their German coach switched the team around, bringing on ex-Stoke City star Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in attack (yep, we all heard the jokes on the night, I’m not going to bother rehashing them). But the striker’s presence and work rate proved to be the difference, unsettling a tiring and visibly drained La Dea’s defence. With time running out, PSG finally found a way through the stubborn Atalanta backline, with Marquinhos tapping home from close range as the clock hit 90 minutes. Gian Piero Gasperini’s men were left reeling, and facing the prospect of an extra 30 minutes, they looked out for the count. In fact, they didn’t even make it to extra time. Choupo-Moting popped up to snatch the most precious of 2-1 wins for Tuchel, condemning Atalanta to the cruelest of defeats. A potentially job-saving goal for the clearly stressed coach

Next up, RB Leipzig. Another team with no experience at this level of our illustrious competition, Leipzig were hoping to make history in their short existence by winning the Champions League. Sadly for them (although less so for German football as a whole), they fell very short against a PSG side growing in confidence.

Les Parisiens were on top from the off, and their dominance showed on 13 minutes, when Marquinhos announced himself as the hero once more, flicking in a lovely header to break the deadlock. That knocked the stuffing out of Leipzig, and Di Maria seemed to have already put the game beyond them on the stroke of half-time, latching on to a delicious Neymar flick and stroking the ball home.

Juan Bernat ended the game as a contest only ten minutes after the break, heading home following some more poor defending from the shaken opponents. A confident 3-0 win, and another professional, controlled performance.

Now, Bayern awaits for Tuchel, Neymar, Mbappé and co. Can they go one step further and stop this Ivan Drago-esque Bundesliga side? PSG may not be as much of an underdog as Rocky Balboa, but they’ve proven they possess the spirit and fight of the plucky Italian Stallion.

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