Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 victory over Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday raised more questions than answers for both sides as the French giant progressed to the last 16 as Group A winners. The win was far from convincing but relieves some of the pressure on coach Carlo Ancelotti as continental competition continues to provide solace to what is becoming an increasingly frustrating Ligue 1 season. Despite the plethora of talent on show at the Parc des Princes, PSG remain frustrating to watch as their group of superstars remain unable to gel for the time being but notch victories by virtue of their considerable individual talent.
1-PSG’s lack of communication:
One of the reasons for that failure to gel so far has been a lack of communication between the players on the pitch. Against Porto it was clear that despite the team looking menacing when going forward, when the game is static and the players are required to move for the ball, there is little or no movement and the players are not making themselves known to teammates to receive the pass. Often captain Thiago Silva and centre-back partner Alex were thumping passes up to the top third of the pitch with little or nothing to aim at because nobody in the midfield was making themselves an available target. This is to be expected of a new team as they bond together and gel as a unit but the various nationalities in the squad appear to have hit a barrier of communication.
2-Porto will not win the Champions League with Helton in goal:
Porto’s netminder made a howling error for Ezequiel Lavezzi’s winner for the hosts and his general display on Tuesday night again left questions of his reliability. Helton appears to make an error of this kind each year in the competition and the Brazilian continually lets down a very good attacking side that has the potential if not to win it, then at least to reach the quarter or semi-finals. His opposite number, Salvatore Sirigu, has come under criticism this season for his preference to punch the ball instead of catch it, but Helton is an example of a player who solely seems to fist the ball and rarely lays a clean set of gloves on the ball. A worry for the Portuguese as they enter the last 16.
3-PSG set-piece prowess and frailty in defending them:
Thiago Silva’s opener for PSG came from a set piece and that is the capital club’s fifth goal from their 14 scored that have come from dead-ball situations. Carlo Ancelotti appears to have perfected their ability to score from set plays, but ironically, their biggest weakness is defending them and keeping high balls out. Jackson Martinez’s equaliser, only four minutes after Silva’s opener, not only illustrated PSG’s lapses in concentration, it perfectly demonstrated how the defence are still unable to adequately deal with aerial challenges. With Silva, Alex and Mamadou Sakho all regulars in the team, this must be a continuing worry for the Italian.
4-Porto’s short fuse:
This season’s Porto side seem more hotheaded than in recent years, their feisty affair with PSG creating seven cards in total, four of which went to the visitors. In a competition where suspensions can kill your chances of progress, Vitor Pereira’s side will need to reign in the aggression as a fight threatened to break out at the end of the clash suggesting that the Portugues could be emotionally susceptible to opponents' tactics in the latter stages if this is identified. Danilo, Nicolas Otamendi, Eliaquim Mangala and James Rodriguez all picked up bookings and if one of those key players was to be suspended later in the competition then Porto’s strength in depth would really be tested.
5-PSG lack of creativity from midfield:
Despite the presence of Marco "the next Andre Pirlo’" Verratti in the PSG midfield it is too soon to expect the 20-year-old to shoulder all of les Parisiens’ creative burden, and in his absence Javier Pastore is clearly not the creative genius that many people hail him to be. The Italian is a quality playmaker in the making and is capable of genius but all too often he delivers little. He flatters to deceive and despite putting in an improved showing against Porto than in recent weeks, he has yet to really impose himself on any opponent this season. Joao Moutinho lined up against PSG and it is the Portuguese’s kind of influence, in the mould of Paul Scholes, that the hosts lack currently and it costs them their ability to dictate the pace of the game from midfield.
6-Porto too intricate:
The Portuguese were guilty of trying to walk the ball into the net on Tuesday night a la Arsenal and this over intricacy could cost them later in the tournament. Everybody loves a well-worked, technically flawless goal but on a number of occasions Porto elected to pass instead of shoot when an attempt on goal would have been the better option. This reluctance to chance their arm has not really been an issue in the group stages but when scoring opportunities are at a premium in the next round, Pereira’s side need to show a greater willingness to shoot from in and around the box.