Paris Saint-Germain’s struggles to avoid an embarrassing group stage exit in the Champions League began when they fell victim to the aura of Anfield and Roberto Firmino’s stoppage time winner for Liverpool in September, reports AFP.
But with the roles reversed and the Premier League side headed to the Parc des Princes on Wednesday with PSG needing to win to keep qualification for the last 16 in their own hands, the French champions can take solace in the fact Liverpool pack a far weaker punch on the road in the Champions League.
Anfield has long been credited as the extra man for the five-time European champions, but rarely has the contrast between Liverpool’s highs and lows in the Champions League been as stark as in the past few months.
Indeed, so easily were the Serbs swept aside that concerns were raised about the growing gulf in resources between European football’s elite and once great powers now relegated to also-rans by the geographical lottery that leaves them outside the continent’s top five leagues. Last season Liverpool only secured victory on the road twice in Europe and were left hanging on for a 4-2 defeat in Rome that edged Jurgen Klopp’s men through by the odd goal on aggregate. They were then beaten 3-1 by Real Madrid in the final in Kiev. And while an upturn in fortunes, particularly defensively, has been seen in an unbeaten start to the Premier League season, it has not yet cured Liverpool’s travel sickness in the Champions League.
Neymar, Mbappe to return
Meanwhile, it has been a month marred by off-field controversies for Paris Saint-Germain, but it is the fitness of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar that casts the longest shadow over the French club ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League crunch clash against Liverpool.
Mbappe and Neymar both suffered injuries playing in international friendly matches last week, and watched Saturday’s 1-0 home win over Toulouse from the stands.
Both of those players have scored 13 goals this season, while Edinson Cavani has 10 in all competitions. Their influence on the team is huge.
“They’re getting better every day, we have time before now and Wednesday. It’s good for us. I think they’ll be able to play,” was Tuchel’s optimistic assessment at the weekend.
Liverpool’s investment raises expectation
The visitors failed to muster a single shot on target in losing 1-0 to Napoli on matchday two and Red Star enjoyed their biggest night since winning the European Cup in 1991 when the Serbs beat Liverpool 2-0 in their first Champions League victory for 26 years.
Yet the investment in the summer to back up a run to last season’s final was intended to secure Liverpool’s position among the potential Champions League winners, and that means not just relying on the galvanising effect of an Anfield crowd. “I don’t think there is any game in the world where you would say beforehand, ‘No chance Liverpool,’” Klopp admitted before his side beat PSG on home soil.
“It is a different club to the club I joined. We got a lot of respect because of the way we played last season.”
But with that status comes the demand to land a knockout blow, even against another contender furnished with a near 500-million-euro forward line of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edison Cavani.
Alves makes welcome return
Veteran Brazilian Dani Alves made his comeback at the weekend after six months out with a knee injury, and his influence could be precious as Paris seek to extend their impressive home record in Europe.
Only Barcelona and Real Madrid have beaten PSG at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League since the Qatari takeover seven years ago, so the challenge facing Liverpool is huge — all the more so given that Klopp’s men have lost their last four games away from Anfield in the competition.
Amid their best ever start to a Premier League season, which continued with a 3-0 win at Watford on Saturday, the Reds also know the stakes are high in Europe.
“It’s going to be a difficult game in Paris and a good game to show how good we are. We go there to try to win, for sure,” Xherdan Shaqiri told the club’s website.