The two sides of Paris Saint-Germain
Flickr - antoine dellenbach
Paris Saint-Germain has made a dream start to life in Ligue 1 with a record-breaking 12 wins from their opening 12 games. Although it is still early in the season, they look almost guaranteed to win a sixth title in seven years.
While things, literally, couldn't have gone better for Thomas Tuchel's side domestically, they have been unable to carry that form into Europe. PSG have already lost away to Liverpool and drawn at home to Napoli which means they travel to Naples this midweek in what looks like a must-win game for the club.
PSG are currently in third place in the group with four points. They are a point behind Napoli and two behind Liverpool. Red Star Belgrade have been the whipping boys in Group C with just one point. A defeat in Naples along with the expected Liverpool win in Belgrade would have the Ligue 1 giants on the brink of elimination.
It is well known that PSG are backed by Qatari investors and they have spent hundreds of millions, if not billions on the Parisiens. They will be pleased with how things have gone in France, dominating over the last few years, but they haven't spent the kind of money that they have to win Ligue 1 and Champions League success is the priority.
PSG has struggled to make a real impact in the Champions League since the investment came in. They reached the quarter-finals four years in a row between 2013 and 2016 but in the last two seasons, they have failed to get past the last 16 including the now infamous "Remontada" when they threw away a 4-0 first leg lead to Barcelona by losing 6-1 at Camp Nou.
Since that defeat, they have signed the architect of their downfall, Neymar. The Brazilian has been joined by Kylian Mbappe with the duo costing in the region of £360million by the time you include loan fees. Other world-class stars like Edinson Cavani, Gianluigi Buffon, Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Julian Draxler are at the club so there's no obvious reason they shouldn't be among the elite in the latter stages.
So why have PSG struggled in Europe? This season isn't a one-off and it looks like there's something deeper going on. They have the players, they have and have had good managers so why can't they carry that winning mentality that comes so easily to them in France, into the Champions League?
The PSG question is genuinely puzzling. They should be doing better. The main reason appears to be that they lack a true big game mentality. Putting up big scores against the minnows is something that most of the elite do regularly. The main difference between the likes of PSG and some of the other big sides is that the others have to mix it up a bit more often in their own leagues.
Teams like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid all have each other in La Liga. Liverpool and Manchester City have reached the semi-finals in recent years and have a number of tough games against teams of a similar standard in the Premier League. PSG are cruising in France and regularly put up big wins against their closest rivals.
When the Champions League reaches the latter stages, there isn't a lot between the sides. That's when coaches, tactics and big game players come into their own. When PSG get to this stage against the big sides, they struggle. Going into these chess matches is something they don't do in France and it shows in their performances against Europe's elite.
PSG may yet turn things around and qualify for the knockout stages. To do so they will have to beat at least one of Napoli or Liverpool. However, even if they make it out of the groups, they don't look like a team that is going to beat the elite and a first Champions League crown looks to be as far away as ever for the club and their billionaire investors.