5 Reasons Why PSG Will Win the UEFA Champions League
No club has ever retained the UEFA Champions League title—not Manchester United, not Real Madrid and not even Barcelona. This means that if any club wants to win this season's edition of the prestigious competition, they will most probably have to go past Bayern Munich.
And if there's one team which can do that, it's Paris Saint-Germain. According to the club's official website (h/t Goal.com), club owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi is hoping for an even bigger year in 2014 after Les Parisiens' Ligue 1 success in 2013.
"I have to thank you. In 2013, together, we became champions. For you, with you, we will continue Paris Saint-Germain's history. In 2014, we're dreaming even bigger," he said.
The Champions League will no doubt be in Al-Khelaifi's mind, as manager Laurent Blanc's side are more than capable of winning it for the first time. They face Bayer Leverkusen in the round of 16.
With arguably the world's best central defender in Thiago Silva captaining the side, the Ligue 1 champions boast a formidable defense which has only conceded 13 goals in 19 league games this season—just seven more than Greek side Olympiakos, who boast the best defense in Europe at the time of writing.
Even when Silva was injured, his fellow compatriot, Marquinhos, stepped up and put in a shift, highlighting the strength in depth that the French side have at their disposal.
Les Parisiens have remained solid defensively in the Champions League this season too. Having comfortably finished as group winners, Blanc's side conceded only five goals in six group stage games against the likes of Benfica, Anderlecht and Olympiakos.
As the famous saying goes, "Offense wins games, defense wins championships."
PSG can be confident about their chances in the Champions League simply because they're an in-form team. 2013 was a great calendar year for the Parisian side, as not only did they win Ligue 1 for the first time in 18 years, but they did it in style, finishing with 83 points—12 clear of Marseille in second.
They have carried this form into the current season, as they currently top the table with 44 points after 19 games played.
What's more astounding is the fact that Les Rouge-et-Bleu have played 53 competitive games in 2013 and have only lost five of them.
Heading into the new year, they have also only lost twice in their last 35 games in all competitions. They have lost twice in their last 14 Champions League games. Lastly, the Parc des Princes has become somewhat of a fortress, with their last home defeat coming in November 2012.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Company
While the defense deserves praise for PSG's blistering form, the offense deserves just as much.
Talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a particularly big reason for that and will want to end his Champions League duck, finally winning the only club trophy which has eluded him for so long. This season could be his chance.
Ibrahimovic has formed a deadly partnership with the French side's record signing, Edinson Cavani. They have scored a combined 27 league goals and 12 Champions League goals this season, forming Europe's deadliest attacking duo.
Facing either one of Zlatan or Cavani is already a tough task and PSG have the pleasure of playing both at the same time—a daunting prospect for even the best sides.
When one factors in the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi, Lucas Moura, Jeremy Menez and Javier Pastore, PSG's strength in depth up front is hard to match.
For a team which returned to the Champions League last season for the first time since 2004-2005, PSG didn't let their inexperience burden them, as they reached the quarter-finals and bowed out to Barcelona—not without a fight, though.
Les Parisiens never actually ended up losing to the Catalans, as they were knocked out 3-3 on aggregate by virtue of away goals and dominated Barcelona for large spells at the Nou Camp.
The experience was no doubt invaluable. As reported by Fox Sports in October, Zlatan thinks the narrow defeat will help the team this season:
There is a big difference compared to last year because this year all the other teams have seen PSG's results and the players we have recruited.
After a year in the Champions League the club has more experience.
Along with experience, the French champions are also stronger, boosted by the arrival of Cavani, who has experience in Europe. Meanwhile, two-time Champions League winner Thiago Motta is fit and has been in great form alongside Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti in PSG's midfield this season.
Team Spirit and Belief
Lastly, there is simply a belief within the PSG camp that European glory is attainable. With team spirit high, a favorable draw with Leverkusen and a strike partnership teams can only dream of, there is no reason why PSG cannot win the Champions League this season.
In an interview with ESPN FC's Ben Gladwell, Blanc indicated that he certainly believes in his club's chances.
"We have the financial means required, the big players, the ambition and a real project. We may only be lacking a history, but we're writing that now," he said.
"I am convinced that we will win the Champions League. We are in a very strong team. The objective is to arrive in April and still be in the running in all competitions," he told Goal.com.
If it does happen, Al-Khelaifi's dreams can't get any bigger.