Is Paris Saint-Germain a Dark Horse for European Glory?
Champions League glory is the pinnacle of the European season. Every club has aspirations to achieve it, but few can realistically be viewed as true contenders.
Each Champions League competition introduces us to a dark horse team that rides their luck further than anyone thought. Paris Saint-Germain is one of those teams that is not part of the "favorites" status, but has the pieces to make a run at the ultimate prize.
While PSG has been wielding their spending power on putting together a squad that can chase the European dream, few feel they are ready to survive the rigors of the competition.
Despite the lack of faith by others, the following slides take a look at what PSG has that makes them a potential dark horse during this European campaign.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been the face of the PSG project ever since his much publicized arrival last summer. He is also the face of the potential of PSG.
Ibrahimovic is one of the premier players in the world. He has the type of talent that rivals the best the game has ever seen. His ability alone gives PSG a chance in any encounter in Europe.
The Champions League has seen its share of players inspiring their clubs to the title. Ibrahimovic is key to PSG's chances of success. Inspired play by Ibra will be critical for their continued advancement.
With a Champions League trophy missing from his resume, one must believe Ibrahimovic will be laying it all on the line. His personal window to conquer Europe is closing, and Ibra will do what it takes to climb that mountain.
Experience in Key Positions
A look at the past Champions League winners shows each team had leadership and experience throughout the squad. Talent can only go so far in this competition, and talent without direction is a recipe for disappointment.
PSG has stocked their roster with players who have gone through the fire. Drawing on this experience will be a great benefit for the squad.
Carlo Ancelotti brings years of Champions League coaching experience to the bench. He understands the need for resting players during the domestic campaign along with the intensity this competition requires.
We have already touched on the Zlatan effect, but the most influential leader on the pitch is Thiago Silva. His leadership in the middle of the defense will stabilize the back.
Knowing the rearguard is in good shape builds confidence for the attack knowing they do not have to score a bag full of goals to win.
The recent addition of David Beckham adds to the experience and leadership. Having multiple outlets for leadership will keep the team from getting too high or too low. Keeping level heads will make PSG a tough matchup.
The Surprise of the Unkown
One of PSG's big expenditures during the recent transfer seasons was for Brazilian wonder-kid Lucas Moura. Despite signing in August, Moura joined PSG during the winter break.
The young Brazilian brings a wealth of attacking talent and potentially the element of surprise for opposing squads.
Despite rarely playing the other squads in the Champions League, there is still a level of familiarity with the opposing players. Defenses are more knowledgeable about attacker's tendencies and preferences from international friendlies and the movement of players between leagues.
With Moura, defenses do not have that base knowledge. With his on the ball skill, it makes him tougher to contain.
Moura could become a super sub for PSG. The opportunity to be a game changer off the bench with his energy and ability could allow PSG to take hold of games in the second half.
Round of 16 Match Up
The opportunity to build confidence and settle into the intensity of the knockout stages of the Champions League is a great benefit to PSG. PSG was afforded that opportunity when they drew Valencia for their Round of 16 matchup.
This is not to knock Valencia, but they present a favorable match up for PSG. By avoiding the Barcelona's, Bayern Munich's, and the other top dogs, PSG gets the opportunity to gain confidence against a more manageable opponent.
This also allows PSG's less experienced players to gain an understanding of how much tougher the advanced stages of the competition are versus the group stages.
Safe, Reliable Hands
To be a champion, a team must have a reliable netminder. A keeper who makes all the saves he should plus some that he should not.
PSG has a highly underrated keeper in Sirigu. The young Italian has been a rock in the back during his year and a half at PSG.
He is positionally solid, good on high balls, and has a knack for producing spectacular saves. He will need to continue his fine form in order for PSG to continue this quest.
Sirigu will find himself called upon more and more as PSG moves forward. If he continues to step up to each of the challenges ahead, PSG will find themselves in position to win every game.